News 07 Dec 17

Serbian Trial for Croatia Massacre Blighted by Delays

The trial in Belgrade of Serbian fighters accused of killing 70 Croatian civilians in the village of Lovas in 1991 will soon enter its tenth year, after closing statements were delayed for a third time in a row.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Belgrade Special court. Photo: BIRN.

Belgrade Special Court decided on Thursday to delay the closing statements in the trial of ten men for the killings of 70 Croatians in Lovas in 1991 because one of the defendants, Petronije Stevanovic, was admitted to a hospital for liver problems, his lawyer said.

The presiding judge said that the hearing could not be held and scheduled the next one for January 12, 2018.

The previous two hearings, which were scheduled for October 2 and 25, were also delayed.The trial started in 2008.

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

According to the indictment, Serbian forces captured the village of Lovas on October 10, 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 Serb territorial defence forces, were given an order 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 the Great’ 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 the case was sent for retrial in 2014.

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

The 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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