News 05 Sep 12

Victims of Serbian TV Bombing Angered by Release

After the release of the only person sentenced over the deaths of 16 people in the NATO bombing of the Serbian TV station, victims' families fear the other perpetrators will not be punished.

Marija Ristic

 Bombed building of the Serbian public broadcaster RTS

Photo by Beta

Dragoljub Milanovic, former director of the Serbian broadcaster RTS, was released on Friday after serving 10 years imprisonment for his role in the deaths of 16 employees of the TV station in April 1999.

He was jailed for not taking any measures to protect his employees despite knowing that NATO planned to target the building of RTS.

Families of the victims say that Milanovic was just a link in the chain and that other perpetrators need to be brought to justice.

Zanka Stojanovic, one of the mothers of the victims, said that senior state officials, with the knowledge of President Slobodan Milosevic, wanted the staff to stay inside the RTS building, so that the casualties could be presented for propaganda purposes against NATO.

“There is no political will to deal with these political murders, as the perpetrators are among the [current] authorities,” Stojanovic said.

The families of the victims doubt whether any new case regarding the RTS bombing will reach the courts before the statute of limitations expires in 2014.

Tomo Zoric, from the state prosecution, says there is no question of the case expiring as an investigation in this case is ongoing.

But the families remain pessimistic. Since 2006 they have filed new evidence to the prosecution and received many promises that the investigation will result in new indictments.

“In 2006, Zoric said the prosecutor would look into the case – and nothing happened. And now we are in 2012 and we hear the same thing,” Stojanovic said.

The NATO bombing of Serbian broadcaster took place on April 23, 1999.

NATO said the broadcaster was a legitimate target because it churned out propaganda in support of the Milosevic regime.

Serbian officials condemned the attack as a war crime. Amnesty International also said the alliance had failed to abide by the laws of war in targeting a civilian institution.

Soon after the bombing campaign, the families of those killed in the RTS building accused Milosevic of “sacrificing” their loved-ones' lives to score propaganda points against NATO.

Milosevic was overthrown amid street protests in 2000. In 2002, the former director of RTS, Dragoljub Milanovic, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for failing to carry out an order to evacuate the broadcaster’s offices.

The relatives of the dead, and the NGOs who had campaigned along with them, were not satisfied with the verdict.

They argued that Milanovic was effectively a scapegoat, as he would not have acted against the wishes of his superiors.

Over the last decade, the war trials of Milosevic and of his allies at The Hague have repeatedly cast light on their tight control of state institutions such as RTS.

Their suspicions have been fuelled by reports of an internal memo which supposedly confirmed that defence officials knew of plans to target the RTS building. The Defence Ministry has denied the existence of any such document.

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