News 11 Feb 14

Serbian Fighters Jailed for Kosovo War Murders

Nine former Serbian fighters have been convicted of killing scores of ethnic Albanian civilians in attacks on villages during the Kosovo conflict and jailed for a total of 106 years.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

Belgrade special court on Tuesday found nine former members of the Yugoslav Army’s 177th intervention squad guilty of killing over 100 Albanian civilians in April and May 1999 during attacks on four villages in Kosovo.

“The men carried out attacks on the civilian population, expelled civilians from houses, separating men from women and killing them,” said presiding judge Snezana Nikolic Garotic.

“They took and destroyed their documents and forced them to leave the villages. The bodies of those killed were set on fire so their remains could never be found, while their houses were burned so those expelled could not come back,” the judge added.

Former Yugoslav Army commander Toplica Miladinovic was sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering the unit’s commander Nebojsa Minic to launch the attacks on the villages of Ljubenic, Pavlan, Zahac and Cuska, all in the area of the Kosovo town of Pec/Peja. Minic, whose nickname was ‘Mtrvi’ (‘Dead’), died of AIDS in Argentina in 2005.

Two other fighters from the unit, Dejan Bulatovic and Milojko Nikolic, were also sentenced to 20 years in jail, while Ranko Momic was given 15 years.

Abdulah Sokic was sentenced to 12 years, Srecko Popovic to 10 years and Sinisa Misic to five years.

Of the other men on trial, Slavisa Kastratovic and Boban Bogicevic were given two years each, while Radoslav Brnovic and Veljko Koricanin were acquitted.

The judge said that the fighters were not paramilitaries, as was suggested by the prosecution at the beginning of the trial, but regular members of the Yugoslav Army who all had military ID cards and received salaries from the army.

The defendants had insisted that they were innocent, saying that they were patriots defending their country from terrorists.

The verdict said that during the attack on the village of Pavlan, a 13-year-old Albanian girl was raped, but that it was not established beyond reasonable doubt which fighter was responsible.

The judge also said that some of the families of the people who were killed were denied the right to bury their realtives.

“They were begging the army to pick up the bodies, but the army refused them. A day afterwards, the bodies were removed and only a decade later were found in a mass grave in Batajanica [in Serbia],” the judge said.

Both defence and prosecution have the right to appeal within 30 days.

Timeline of events in the case against 11 former Serb fighters

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Background

Timeline – Cuska Case

Timeline of events in the case against 13 former Serb fighters charged with committing war crimes in the villages of Cuska, Zahac, Ljubenic and Pavlac in Kosovo in 1999.

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