The Serbian government has denied that Lieutenant General Ljubisa Dikovic, who was appointed head of the Serbian army in December, bears responsibility for any atrocities.
But Natasa Kandic, director of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, said a military report from 1999 showed that a unit commanded by Dikovic -- the 37th Brigade -- was present at a place called Vragodol in northwest Kosovo, where witnesses say war crimes were committed.
"Our witnesses say that the army surrounded them in the woods, where they killed two men and a woman. Then they killed more people at Vragodol field. These testimonies and the military report corroborate each other in every possible way, except that army report does not say that a crime was committed,” Kandic said.
“General Dikovic also testified in front of the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) that he had an order to send his troops on exactly the same route on which the crimes were committed, and on the same day,” Kandic told BIRN.
The Humanitarian Law Center issued a detailed report last month about Dikovic and his alleged command responsibility during the war in Kosovo. According to the principle of command responsibility, leaders can be held responsible for crimes committed by forces under their command even if they did not personally order the atrocities or take part in them.
The rights group's report states that Dikovic was a commander of the 37th Brigade of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army, which according to the ICTY carried out serious and large-scale crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians.
“The killings were conducted during the NATO bombing and Dikovic did not prevent the crimes, even if he was obliged to do so,” the report says.
Dikovic was appointed Head of the Army of the Republic of Serbia on December 12 by a decree from President Boris Tadic.
Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac and Serbia's War Crimes Prosecutor have both stated that the rights group's claims are not true, adding that Dikovic would have been prosecuted by the ICTY if he had been responsible for war crimes.
Kandic said the Serbian authorities would now have to respond to the new report.
“At least now the the defence minister and the general will have to further explain what happened that day in Vragodol and this will, hopefully, show who is telling the truth,” Kandic said.