News 05 Oct 17

Killed Serbian Soldiers’ Families Seek Details of Probe

On the anniversary of two soldiers’ killings at a Belgrade barracks where war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic was allegedly hiding, their families asked officials to tell them if the investigation has made progress.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade

Dragan Jakovljevic and Drazen Milovanovic.

Janko Jakovljevic and Petar Milovanovic, the fathers of the deceased Dragan Jakovljevic and Drazen Milovanovic, said on Thursday at an event in Belgrade commemorating the 13th anniversary of their deaths that they want Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to meet them and update them on the investigation.

“Vucic promised us that the investigation will move on from the ‘dead point’, but we still don’t know what the prosecution is doing,” Janko Jakovljevic told media.

Petar Milovanovic said that Vucic and Brnabic should explain at the meeting whether they will “do something or they won’t”.

One of the lawyers for the families of killed soldiers, Predrag Savic, said meanwhile that Vucic, who was formerly prime minister, told the families at a meeting in December last year that paraffin gloves, used for gunshot residue tests, had been planted at the barracks.

Savic said that Vucic told them that “it was done during a military investigation by one officer”.

“We believed [the] prime minister and we expected that something would happen soon after that, that the prosecution would file a criminal complaint against unknown people for murder,” Savic said, N1 TV reported.

The families’ lawyers claimed on Thursday that a special commission formed in December 2016 to examine the case had held no sessions so far.

Commenting on the anniversary of the death of the two soldiers, President Vucic said that the commission had been working “under great political pressure”, without explaining further.

However he said that the commission was now “completely free to work and has full support to get conclusions that are accurate and precise”, Beta news agency reported.

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

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.

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.

To mark the anniversary of the murder of the two soldiers, peace campaign group Women in Black organised a commemorative silent gathering at Topcider on Thursday.

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