News 05 Apr 13

Serbian Policeman Denies Kosovo Mass Expulsions

A Serbian police officer denied forcing Kosovo Albanians out of the Pec/Peja area during wartime, claiming his forces only wanted to help people to return to their homes.

Marija Ristic

The former commander of Kosovo’s Pec/Peja police station, Milos Stojanovic, testified on Thursday at Belgrade’s special court in the case against 13 former Serb fighters accused of war crimes in Kosovo in 1999, claiming his officers weren’t involved in mass expulsions during the NATO bombings that ended the conflict.

“They never received an order to carry out raids or expel the population. On the contrary, they received an order to help the people who were leaving their villages to return,” said Stojanovic, who is now a policeman in Serbia.

Asked by a judge whether there were shootings and burnings of homes, Stojanovic responded: “Yes, there were. The situation was complex at the time, as there was bombing so it created a chaotic situation in the area resulting in robberies, arsons… But no one reported war crimes to me.”

The witness said that he had received a number of police reports about masses of Albanians leaving Kosovo, but he said the reasons were the NATO bombing and people’s fear about Serb forces’ increased military presence.  

Stojanovic said he knew majority of the 13 defendants because they were police officers in the villages around Pec/Peja in north-western Kosovo.

“They were coming to town regularly, informing us about their activities. But they never received an order to clean up the villages,” Stojanovic said.

“If they were doing something on their own, I don’t know,” he added.

The Serbian prosecution alleges that Toplica Miladinovic, Srecko Popovic, Slavisa Kastratovic, Boban Bogicevic, Radoslav Brnovic, Vidoje Koricanin, Veljko Koricanin, Abdulah Sokic, Milojko Nikolic, Sinisa Misic, Zoran Obradovic, Dejan Bulatovic and Ranko Momic were responsible for killing more than 100 ethnic Albanians in the villages of Zahac, Pavlan, Ljubenic and Cuska during the conflict in Kosovo in 1999.

The aim of the attack, according to the indictment, was to permanently expel the Albanian population from the area.

In the second part of the Thursday’s trial session, some of defendant Ranko Momic’s family testified, including his wife Daliborka.

According to the indictment, Momic killed a number of Albanian civilians in the village of Ljubenic on April 1, 1999.

His wife and two other relatives who testified claimed however that he was in central Serbia at the time of the murders.

Daliborka Momic said her husband had taken her and her sister to Kovin in central Serbia.

“Ranko drove us to Kovin. Yes, he was armed, but that was the only way we could leave Pec. He stayed with us for a week I think and then came back to Pec,” his wife said.

She also recalled the life she and her husband had in Pec/Peja before the bombing.

“We were living in Arkan’s aunt’s house, but we were just renting the house,” she said.

Some witnesses, including key prosecution witness Zoran Raskovic, a former member of the Momic’s unit, have claimed that Momic was a military trainer for the notorious Tigers paramilitary unit led by Zeljko Raznjatovic ‘Arkan’, a criminal who died in mafia shootout in Belgrade in 2000.

Momic denied involvement with Arkan, claiming it was an attempt to frame him by Raskovic, with whom he previously had personal conflicts.

His wife Daliborka confirmed this.

“Yes, I knew Zoran Raskovic. We worked together in a coffee shop, but he got fired because he was stealing,” she said.

“At the time I was dating Ranko, and Zoran tried to convince me to break up with him. That resulted in bar fight between my Ranko and him,” she continued.

At a hearing in December 2011, Raskovic recalled in great detail the events that he witnessed in the Kosovo village of Cuska, where 44 civilians were killed during an attack by the Jackals paramilitary unit, Serbian territorial defence units and police reservists on May 14, 1999. He named Momic as officer most responsible for the deaths.

Raskovic is expected to testify at the next trial session scheduled for April 22.

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