News 23 Jan 14

Top Yugoslav Officials Convicted of Kosovo War Crimes

The Hague Tribunal upheld its guilty verdict on four senior Yugoslav state and military officials who appealed against convictions for murders and deportations in Kosovo in 1999.

Marija Ristic
The defendants in court in The Hague.

The Hague Tribunal ruled on Thursday that former Yugoslav deputy prime minister Nikola Sainovic, former Yugoslav Army generals Nebojsa Pavkovic and Vladimir Lazarevic and former Serbian police general Sreten Lukic were guilty of the murder, deportation and inhumane treatment of Kosovo Albanians in 1999.

The appeal upheld the initial verdict on the four men in 2009, when the court found that “there was a broad campaign of violence directed against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population conducted by forces under the control of the [Yugoslav] and Serbian authorities, during which there were incidents of killing, sexual assault, and the intentional destruction of mosques”.

The verdict also said that “it was the deliberate actions of these forces during this campaign that caused the departure of at least 700,000 Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo in the short period of time between the end of March and beginning of June 1999”.

The UN-backed court’s appeals chamber said that Sainovic acted as the liaison between the Belgrade authorities – Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic – and the Yugoslav police and army on the ground in Kosovo.

It said that Sainovic was also one of the closest and most trusted allies of Milosevic, therefore was informed about orders given to the army and police in Kosovo.

However the court reduced his prison sentence from 22 years to 18 years.

The Tribunal upheld the 22-year sentence handed down to Pavkovic, finding him guilty of being part of a joint criminal enterprise, the aim of which was the persecution and forcible removal of Albanians from Kosovo. He was also found guilty of murder.

Lazarevic was found guilty of aiding and abetting the deportation and forcible transfer of the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment, a reduction from his original jail term of 15 years.

The court also upheld the first-instance verdict on Lukic, which found him guilty of murder and persecution, but reduced his sentence from 22 years to 20 years.

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