News 05 Oct 16

Killed Serbian Soldiers’ Families Demand New Probe

Families of two soldiers killed at a Belgrade barracks where they alleged war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic was hiding called for a new investigation to finally reveal who was responsible.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Dragan Jakovljevic and Drazen Milovanovic.

Lawyers for the families of Dragan Jakovljevic and Drazen Milovanovic said on Wednesday at an event commemorating the 12th anniversary of the soldiers’ deaths that they want the Serbian authorities to set up a special commission to investigate and establish who killed the two men at the Topcider military barracks in Belgrade in 2004.

Lawyer Predrag Savic told BIRN that if no progress is made, the families would have to “internationalise the problem”, taking their case to European institutions and the UN.

During the commemoration, the parents of two soldiers said they were disappointed that the truth has still not been revealed 12 years after their deaths.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday that he was ready to talk to the parents.

“I am not a prosecutor or a judge but it is my duty to talk with everyone who thinks that I could help in solving problems,” Vucic was quoted as saying by the Blic newspaper.

Jakovljevic and Milovanovic were killed on October 5, 2004, while they were on guard duty at the barracks.

After the murders, the Serbian Army and its military court launched an investigation which resulted in a ruling that one soldier killed the other and then committed suicide.

But another investigation, initiated by the families, found that a third person killed the two servicemen.

After another, independent investigation, the families claimed that they had received unofficial confirmation that the soldiers were killed because former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, in that time a fugitive from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, was hiding at the Topcider barracks.

“A month ago we got a letter signed by the ‘former security of the ICTY indictee’ in which it was described what happened that day. The letter says that Mladic was present that day in the barracks and that our two boys noticed him,” said Janko Jakovljevic, the father of one of the dead soldiers, in July 2012.

In October 2014, when he was already in custody, Mladic was questioned about his possible involvement in the murder of two soldiers, but he denied that he was hiding in the barracks at the time.

However the families’ lawyer Predrag Savic said they have not abandoned the possibility that Mladic was there and his presence was connected to the soldiers’ deaths.

“The theory that Mladic was hiding within the building still exists, and there are indications that it could be viable, alongside a couple more theories,” Savic told BIRN.

Serbia’s constitutional court ruled in February 2013 that the state denied the families the right to a fair hearing because it investigated the case for eight years but didn’t press any charges.

Each family was awarded 5,000 euros in compensation.

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