News 30 Aug 13

Freed Yugoslav General Retracts War Crimes Confession

Former Yugoslav General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who admitted that he committed war crimes against Kosovo Albanians, retracted his confession after being freed by the Hague Tribunal.

Marija Ristic

“I can look into the eyes of the whole world and say that I never committed any criminal act or war crime or crime against humanity,” Ojdanic said in a speech after returning to Serbia on Thursday afternoon.

He flew back to Belgrade after serving two-thirds of his 15-year war crimes sentence, and was greeted by trumpet players and around 100 family members, friends and supporters, mainly from his hometown of Uzice, who chanted slogans like “Long live the general!” and “Bravo general!”

“Here I am, after 11 years, four months and four days, in front of you with a clear and clean conscience,” he said in a speech after arriving.

Ojdanic was convicted by the Hague Tribunal in 2009 of deportation and other inhumane acts against Kosovo Albanians during the late 1990s conflict.

In January this year, he made a written statement admitting his guilt.

“I fully accept all of the findings made in the judgement. All that remains is for me to serve out my sentence. I express my sincere regret to all of those who suffered as a result of the conduct for which I have been convicted,” he wrote, adding that he was 72 years old and his health had deteriorated in custody.

But on Thursday, although he again stressed his regret about any suffering caused, he insisted that “crimes were committed on all sides, but only Serb state officials were prosecuted”.

He added that he was “proud to have fulfilled my oath to the people and the homeland... fighting at the time against one of the most serious, barbaric aggressions carried out 16 NATO countries led by the United States”.

According to the verdict in his case however, the general “knew of the campaign of terror, violence and forcible displacement being carried out by VJ [Yugoslav Army] and Serbian ministry of internal affairs forces against Kosovo Albanians, but he refrained from taking effective measures at his disposal”.

Armed conflict between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army continued from 1998 to 1999 before NATO intervened militarily in an attempt to end the violence.

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