News 12 Jan 18

Serbian Judge and Defendant Clash at Lovas Trial

The judge and a defendant argued after the trial of Serbian fighters accused of killing 70 Croatian civilians in the village of Lovas in 1991 was again delayed on Friday.

Filip Rudic
Belgrade Special court. Photo: BIRN

After the hearing was postponed, one of the defendants, Zoran Kosijer, complained that he was not receiving transcripts from previous hearings, but was rebuked by the presiding judge before he could finish speaking.

“How am I supposed to prepare my closing statement?" Kosijer asked the judge, who told him to file a request for transcripts.

Kosijer claimed he should receive these transcripts by default.

The judge told Kosijer told to seek clarification from his attorney, and interrrupted him before he finished asking questions.

“There is no reason for us to engage in this sort of polemics," the judge said.

The hearing at the Belgrade Special court was postponed because another defendent, Miodrag Dimitrijevic, could not attend due to serious stomach problems, his lawyer told the court.

This is the fourth time in a row that the Lovas trial, which started in April 2008, has been delayed. The next hearing is scheduled February 27.

Ten former members of the police, Serbian territorial defence forces, the Yugoslav People’s Army and the "Dusan Silni" [Dusan the Great] paramilitary unit are accused of committing war crimes against civilians and of killing 70 of them in the Croatian village of Lovas in October 1991.

The indictment says Serbian forces captured Lovas on October 10 that year, after which the beatings and torture of civilians started.

On October 17, the forces allegedly rounded up around 70 men from Lovas, aged 18 to 65, detained them and tortured some of them.

The next day, defendants Radovan Vlajkovic and Radisav Josipovic, who were military officials with Serbian territorial defence forces, were ordered to use the civilians as a human shield in a minefield, according to the indictment.

Vlajkovic and Josipovic are said to have chosen around 50 civilians and told them to walk towards a nearby field to check where the mines were.

When they got there, members of the Dusan Silni paramilitary unit told the civilians to walk in a line and to check with their feet where the mines were; Vlajkovic and Josipovic allegedly participated in this.

When one man fell over, a mine exploded, and at the same time a number of soldiers started shooting at the Croatians, 19 of whom were killed.

The prosecution said that 20 civilians were killed on October 10, when the village was captured, while the other victims were killed at other times.

All the former fighters were convicted in 2012, but Serbia’s appeals court annulled the verdict and sent the case for retrial in 2014.

Four of those who were initially convicted - Ljuban Devetak, Dragan Bacic, Aleksandar Nikolaidis and Milan Radojcic - have since died.

Serbia's deputy war crimes prosecutor asked in March 2017 for the ten defendants to be jailed for a total of 83 years.

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