news 15 Nov 17

Serb Policeman Accused of Beating Kosovo Prisoners

At the trial of Zoran Vukotic, a Serb ex-policeman charged with war crimes in 1999, two Kosovo Albanian witnesses testified about the defendant’s alleged brutality against civilian prisoners.

Bahrie Sadiku
BIRN
Mitrovica
The trial of Zoran Vukotic at Mitrovica Basic Court. Photo: BIRN.

Witness Sabit Hyseni testified at Vukotic’s trial on Tuesday at Mitrovica Basic Court that he was badly beaten three times by the defendant after he was taken by Serb forces to Smrekonica prison together with other Kosovo Albanian civilians in 1999.

“When it was Zoran’s shift, he beat us with a wooden stick; I’m surprised that it did not break,” Hyseni said.

“He came with his car, turned the music on and started to beat us,” he added.

As previous witnesses in the trial also testified, Hyseni explained how Vukotic selected prisoners with the same surname - brothers, fathers and sons - and made them beat each other up.

He also told the court that he saw Serb forces killing a young boy and an elderly man in a column of Kosovo Albanians who had been driven from their homes.

“As we were moving in the column there were shots. I just know there was a 12- or 13-year-boy killed,” Hyseni said.

“An elderly man approached one of the police officers and said in Serbian: ‘Why are you killing innocent children?’ He [the policeman] trained his gun and killed this old man also,” he added.

He also said he heard some Serb police talking about around 100 killings over a two-way radio used by one of the officers.

“I heard with my own ears in Serbian through a two-way radio: ‘How many have you killed?’ And that policeman responded in Serbian: ‘About 100,’” the witness said.

Another witness, Shefqet Binaku, told the court that 940 civilians were taken to Smrekonica prison by Serb forces.

He said that through the prison window they could see the prisoners being beaten in a facility outside.

“I saw terror with my own eyes,” he said.

Asked about how prisoners were treated by Vukotic, the witness replied: “When Zoki [Zoran Vukotic] came for his shift, the screaming and crying of prisoners was heard not only inside the prison but maybe even as far away as Vushtrri/Vucitrn.”

According to the indictment, between May 2 and 3, 1999, in his capacity as a reserve police officer from the police station in Vushtrri/Vucitrn, and in co-perpetration with other members of Serb forces, Vukotic participated in an attack on Albanian civilians who were travelling in a column from the village of Upper Studime to Lower Studime near Vushtrri/Vucitrn.

Vukotic was extradited from Montenegro to Kosovo in November 2016.

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