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NO 179-180

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 1 > Helsinki Charter No. 179-180 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 179-180

September - October 2013


Transitional Justice

A bloody modus operandi

The state of Serbia continues the state-orchestrated crime through its judiciary, by being silent and by covering up the atrocities committed in the name of citizens who, proud of their uniformed bandits and desperados, deny the truth, responsibility and justice for the victims.

By Bojan Tončić


The fourth record of the activities of the Serbian military units – the one about the crimes committed in the zone of responsibility of the 125th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army - also reveals a series of shocking testimonies about the ferocious murders and persecution of Kosovo Albanians in 1998 and 1999, the crimes proved to have been committed systematically as a part of the Greater Serbia project of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. No mass execution took place during armed conflicts with the members of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The zone of responsibility of the 125th Motorized Brigade in 1998 was in the municipalities of Zvecan, Kosovska Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Srbica, Vucitrn, Glogovac, Klina, Istok, Pec and Decani. At the onset of NATO intervention the municipality of Zvecan was exempt from it.

Among other things, the document presented on 11 October in Belgrade contains systematized testimonies of the victims’ family members, who were interviewed by the researchers of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), foreign non-governmental organizations and the media, as well as the testimonies of the Yugoslav Army officers before the Hague Tribunal, most of which were collected in the trial of Sainovic et al. HLC turned the multifold significance of the knowledge about the crimes into a criminal charge before the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia, whereby six members of the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian police force, were suspected of murdering 78 Kosovo Albanians in 1999 in the village of Kraljane, near Djakovica.

The then commander and chief of staff of the 125th Motorized Brigade, Dragan Zivanovic and Djordje Nikolic, are among the indictees, as well as the then commander of the 24th squad of the Special Police Units, Zarko Brakovic, and the deputy commander of the Fifth battle group of the 125th Motorized Brigade, Robert Smajcelj. HLC stated that the bodies of 17 men murdered in the territory of Kraljane on 4 April 1999, were found in 2001 in the mass grave near Lake Perucac, the bodies of eight victims were exhumed from the cemetery in the village of Brekovac near Djakovica, while the bodies of 53 men were still being searched for. Among the 78 murdered men 11 were minors, and two of the youngest boys were 15 years old.

At the promotion of the record, Malici Krueziu, whose son Mentor is one of the missing persons, spoke poignantly about the developments preceding the killing:

“Those were really difficult moments, when we were watching the people going towards Albania, and waiting for death. A group of ten soldiers arrived and started issuing orders, ‘You stand up, you stand up, you stand up…’ Mentor was standing close to me and I told him, ‘Mentor, don’t look at them, keep your head down.’ He lowered his head. All this lasted for a short time, until they told us, ‘Go towards Albania.’ Mentor turned pale, grabbed my hand and one of the soldiers rushed toward us. He grabbed Mentor pointing his automatic gun at me and said to Mentor, ‘You are coming with us!’ I did not have the strength to stop him, I couldn’t. I went to Albania, and Mentor stayed there, in Kraljane. I am waiting and hoping that the people who killed innocent persons will face justice”, said Krueziu.

Sandra Orlovic, executive director of the HLC, said that the highly confidential military reports, which were given to the Tribunal by Serbia, state that “the only two units of armed forces of the Republic of Serbia, i.e. the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which were in the village at the time were the 125th Motorized Brigade and 24th squad of the Special Police Units.”

In the zone of responsibility of the 125th Motorized Brigade, 1,813 civilians were murdered during 1998 and 1999 (during those two years 7,914 Albanian civilians were murdered or forcibly disappeared in Kosovo), including 236 children and 327 women. The record also analyzes ten mass executions of 301 civilians (seven women and nineteen children). None of the Brigade members was held responsible for the crimes in any way. Presently, the accused of mass crimes in the villages of Cuska, Lubenic, Zahac and Pavlan are standing trial before the Higher Court in Belgrade - Department for War Crimes. These crimes were committed by the members of the military-territorial squad “Pec,” which was subordinated to the 125th Motorized Brigade.

The state project of persecution and eradication of Albanians had a recognizable crime rhythm, a bloody modus operandi, almost identical to all the mass executions by the military-police forces in Kosovo. “Almost all the crimes committed in 1999 followed the same pattern. Soldiers would enter a village and expel the locals, Kosovo Albanians, from their homes. Then they would separate men from women, children and elderly people. Expulsion from homes and separation of men were followed by abuses, insults, robbery and destruction of property. After they separated the men, women, children and elderly persons were ordered to go to Albania. Detained men were shot in groups. Their bodies were then burned, or transported to hidden locations,” states the record.

Extremely cruel crimes were recorded in the territory of the village of Gornje Obrinje, municipality Glogovac, where fourteen civilians were murdered, mostly from the Deliu family of which the eldest was Fazli Deliu, born in 1908, and the youngest Antigona Deliu, born in 1984. They were either shot or stabbed to death, and then their bodies were mutilated. New York Times, Guardian, Reuters, Time and The Daily Telegraph wrote about this crime that was also documented by the Human Rights Watch and OSCE. Internal investigation and officers’ testimonies before the Hague Tribunal indicate that the crime was most probably committed by police units which, with the support from the Brigade, occupied the village of Gornje Obrinje.

The crimes such as those in the town of Srbica, villages Dubovac, Osljane (municipality Vucitrn), Starodvorane (Istok) and the soldiers’ attitude towards small groups of civilians were marked by inhumanity; killings of pregnant women were recorded, the same as murders of fathers before the eyes of their children, plunder and torched homes.

For all these crimes the Brigade was decorated with the Order of National Hero. In April 2002 President of FR Yugoslavia Vojislav Kostunica appointed the commander of the Brigade, Dragan Zivanovic, the chief of staff of the Belgrade Corps. He retired in March 2006 in the rank of major general.

“The people who were direct perpetrators, those who pulled the trigger, and those who ordered the crimes, those who tolerated the crimes, those who were silent and those who covered the traces, they all are at large. Many of them are in the institutions of the Republic of Serbia today, they enjoy great reputation, they enjoy the privileges and participate in the decision-making affecting our lives, our security, and the rule of law in this country,” said Sandra Orlovic.

She also emphasized that the HLC will ask the Serbian Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia whether the officers against whom criminal charges were brought were still in active service. Radio Free Europe was told by the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia that they are acting upon the criminal charges brought by the HLC regarding the crimes in Kraljane. However, the Office has not demonstrated any intention so far to start investigation on the basis of the findings of the military documents submitted to the Hague Tribunal, which were no longer treated as confidential, or on the basis of testimonies by eyewitnesses, even though numerous conclusions directly accuse high ranking officers of the then Yugoslav Army, either still in active service or retired.

The state of Serbia continues the state-orchestrated crime through its judiciary, by being silent and by covering up the atrocities committed in the name of citizens who, proud of their uniformed bandits and desperados, deny the truth, responsibility and justice for the victims.


NO 179-180

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