One of the key witnesses in a high-profile war crimes trial in Belgrade has identified members of a paramilitary unit he says were responsible for the attack on Cuska village in Kosovo in 1999.
Zoran Raskovic, who himself was a member of the 'Jackals' Serb paramilitary unit, gave public testimony on Tuesday in which he identified one defendant he said was part of the attack and described the scene in Cuska on May 14, 1999, when 44 civilians were killed.
In his testimony, Raskovic, who refused protection measures offered by the court, recalled in great detail the events he witnessed in the village near the town of Pec. During a session closed to the public, he identified other paramilitaries who participated in the attack.
According to Raskovic, the leader of the attack on Cuska was the commander of the “Jackals”, Nebojsa Minic, who died in Argentina during extradition proceedings. He named defendants Srecko Popovic, aka Cale, and Ranko Momic, aka Ranko Bosanac, as participants in the attack.
Raskovic said that he was standing 50 metres from the site of several killings, and named Popovic and Momic as most responsible for the killings, adding that defendant Zoran Obradovic, nicknamed Buba, was known as one of the most brutal in unit.
The thirteen alleged former Jackal members on trial are charged with murder, rape, looting, and destroying the property of civilians in Cuska in May 1999.
The men, who have pleaded not guilty, also stand accused of spreading fear among ethnic Albanian civilians so as to force them to leave their homes.
The attack on Cuska came in the midst of the conflict in Kosovo between Serbian security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, and the trial is one of the biggest war crimes cases to be heard in a Belgrade court.
During his testimony, Raskovic identified the thirteen defendants and recognised them all as members of the Jackals unit.
Standing across from the witness during cross-examination, Popovic said that Raskovic's testimony was a complete lie and that he had prepared 60 questions for the witness. In response, the witness said that Popovic killed three ethnic Albanian men during the attack.
"I know that I have been sentenced before the end of trial, but I want to prove that the witness [Raskovic] has certain financial interests,” said Popovic.
In his testimony on Monday, Raskovic said that armed attacks against ethnic Albanian civilians in Cuska were ordered in the morning of May 14, 1999 by the commander of the Jackals Unit, Nebojsa Minic, known as Mrtvi (Dead), who told members of the Unit: “We are going in hunt of Germans”.
Raskovic testified that paramilitaries from the Jackals launched the attack in groups of four, killing civilians, burning the houses of ethnic Albanians, and looting money, jewelry and other valuables.
“At the head of the first group was Mrtvi, with him was Vampir. Cale was in the second group with Buba, and the third group was led by Ranko Bosanac and a fourth person known as Sumadija,” said the witness.
“Groups were moving in four directions. I remember that two middle-aged Albanian men were standing in the street and asked if they could do something, and Vampir calmly killed them both,” he added.
According to the indictment, the accused Abdulah Sokich went by the nickname Vampir, and Zoran Obradovic by the nickname Buba. The defendant Ranko Momic was known in the Jackals unit as Ranko Bosanac.
During Monday's hearing, several defendants, including Popovic, Momic and Obradovic, protested and complained about the testimony given by Raskovic. The witness, meanwhile, turned to face the accused several times and said: “You did that”.
Raskovic said that didn’t see mass executions of civilians, a count included in the indictment, and testified that he didn't see ethnic Albanian terrorists at the time of the attack.
“I didn’t see Albanian terrorists at that time, and we were not attacked by them,” he explained.
Raskovic told the court that the things that were taken from civilians were divided among the members of the Jackals.
According to the indictment, following the attack, over 400 villagers, including women, children and elderly, left their homes. Before the conflict, Cuska counted some 2000 inhabitants, mostly ethnic Albanian.
One of the victims of the killings in Cuska was Hasan Ceku, the father of former Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku.
The trial will continued on Wednesday, with further cross-examination of the witness.
This article is Premium Content. In order to gain access to it, please login to your account below if you are already a Premium Subscriber, or subscribe to one of our Premium Content packages.
Our Premium Service gives you access to exclusive content published on Balkan Insight, including analyses, investigations, comments, interviews and more. Subscribe to Balkan Transitional Justice Premium or to Full Premium Access and get unparalleled in-depth coverage of the Western Balkans.
If you have trouble logging in or any other questions regarding you account, please contact us