News 23 Apr 13

Serbian Paramilitary Describes Massacre of Kosovo Villagers

A key prosecution witness told the trial of 13 members of the Serbian ‘Jackals’ paramilitary unit how they massacred scores of ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo in 1999.

Marija Ristic

Witness Zoran Raskovic, who was a member of the Jackals during the Kosovo war, gave vivid testimony at Belgrade special court about the brutal murders committed by his unit.

“It was early in the morning when we entered [the Kosovo village of] Ljubenic,” Raskovic told the court.

“It was a regular army action - we entered the village, forced villagers to leave their houses and gather at the centre of the village near the mosque,” he said.

“There were around 60 to 100 villagers gathered. They looked so scared. Like sheep before the slaughter. Then one Albanian stepped out of the group and said: ‘Why are you acting like bandits?’

“Then ‘Mrtvi’ [‘Dead’, the nickname for the former commander of the unit, Nebojsa Minic] just shot him and said: ‘Everyone who tries to offend the Serb police will end up like this,’” Raskovic continued.

After these initial shootings, the mass killings began, he said.

“I just remember seeing three more members [of the unit] shooting randomly at the group of civilians gathered there. I don’t know how long that lasted. But I can still see their bloody bodies. That was a massacre,” Raskovic said.

Thirteen Serb fighters are charged with killing at least 100 Albanians in four Kosovo villages – Ljubenic, Cuska, Pavlan, Zahac ­– in 1999.

According to Raskovic, the leader of the Jackals was Minic, also known as the ‘Commander of Death’, who was a voluntary member of the police unit in the Kosovo town of Pec/Peja.

Minic was arrested in Argentina in 2005 while on the run, but died of AIDS the same year, during the extradition process.

“I remember that later Mrtvi [Minic] was sitting in a local shop with army commander Baltic, who praised him for the action, arguing that was the best military action ever,” said Raskovic.

He said that ethnic Albanian civilians who fled from Ljubenic to Albania, told others along the way what had happened, causing them to also flee from the area around Pec/Peja.

Raskovic also testified that the Jackals were a special unit which was given money and arms by the state, but acted independently of central command.

When asked by a judge to name the people who were shooting the civilians alongside Mrtvi, Raskovic refused.

He argued that he was in danger because the state had not issued him personal identity documents. His previous documents expired while he was in prison for robbery but he had received no response to his request for new papers.

“Unless you provide me with the ID, I won’t name anyone. It is not safe for me,” Raskovic said.

He added that he feels threatened both by defendants and police. At the beginning of the trial, Raskovic was a protected witness, but later decided to reject the protection measures, claiming he had been intimidated by the police’s witness protection unit.

The treatment of witnesses by the protection unit, which is run by Serbia’s interior ministry, has been widely criticised by a number of international institutions, including the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

The Serbian prosecution alleges that Toplica Miladinovic, Srecko Popovic, Slavisa Kastratovic, Boban Bogicevic, Radoslav Brnovic, Vidoje Koricanin, Veljko Koricanin, Abdulah Sokic, Milojko Nikolic, Sinisa Misic, Zoran Obradovic, Dejan Bulatovic and Ranko Momic were responsible for killing more than 100 ethnic Albanians in the villages of Zahac, Pavlan, Ljubenic and Cuska in Kosovo in 1999.

The aim of the attack, according to the indictment, was to permanently expel the Albanian population from the area.

The trial continues.

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