News 18 Oct 17

Freed Serbian War Criminal to Teach at Military Academy

Serbia’s defence minister said that former Yugoslav Army officer Vladimir Lazarevic, who served a sentence for war crimes in Kosovo and will now teach cadets at the Military Academy, should be a ‘role model’.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian Army junior officers. Photo: Serbian Armed Forces.

Vladimir Lazarevic, the former commander of the Yugoslav Army’s Pristina Corps, who served two-thirds of a 14-year sentence for war crimes during the Kosovo conflict, is to become a teacher at the Serbian Military Academy, Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin told Vecernje Novosti newspaper on Wednesday.

“We made a rule to make room at the Military Academy for the most prominent commanders from the wars gone by... This is a great turning point and a way to correct the injustice that was inflicted on them in the past years,” Vulin said.

He added that Serbia was depriving itself of “the most precious experience” by renouncing commanders from the Yugoslav wars.

“The cadets’ role models have to be Serbian generals, especially those who have proven themselves in the most dire times,” he said.

Lazarevic was released in 2015 and given a hero’s welcome by the Serbian authorities when he returned to the country after serving his sentence.

He recently made headlines when he attended a gathering of former soldiers of the Third Battalion of the Yugoslav Army together with another convicted war criminal, Nikola Sainovic, and was praised by minister Vulin.

Vulin said in his speech at the event that Serbia will no longer be ashamed of those who “defended” it, and that the time has come to be “quietly proud” instead.

His comments were criticised by the US ambassador to Belgrade, Kyle Scott, who was in turn attacked by the Serbian press.

The list of new Military Academy lecturers will also include General Bozidar Delic, commander of the 549th Motorised Brigade of the Yugoslav Army, which is alleged to have been responsible for attacks on eight Kosovo villages in 1999 which left 885 dead, according to research by Belgrade’s Humanitarian Law Centre NGO.

Delic has never been prosecuted for his involvement in the war.

Another new lecturer will be the current army chief of staff, Ljubisa Dikovic, who commanded the 37th Brigade of the Yugoslav Army during the Kosovo war.

A documentary released by the Humanitarian Law Centre earlier this year alleged that approximately 1,400 civilians were killed in 1999 in an area of Kosovo which was under the control of Dikovic’s brigade.

Dikovic has also never been investigated over the allegations that crimes were committed, and in 2016 he won compensation from the Humantarian Law Centre after it accused him of involvement in war crimes in Kosovo and Bosnia.

The decision to appoint Lazarevic as a lecturer was condemned by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which called it a “scandal”.

“[Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin] is a promoter and protector of war criminals, a person who supports and celebrates them and in this way he denies citizens’ right to hear the full truth about the wars,” the party said in a press release.

But Vulin told Vecernje Novosti that generals like Lazarevic, Dikovic and Delic have “much to pass on” to younger colleagues.

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