News 29 May 17

Kosovo Serb Pleads Not Guilty to War Crimes

Zoran Vukotic, a Kosovo Serb extradited from Montenegro last year and charged with war crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians in 1999, pleaded not guilty at the first hearing on Monday in Mitrovica Basic Court.

Arita Gerxhaliu, Die Morina
Zoran Vukotic in Mitrovica Basic Court, Kosovo | Photo: BIRN

Zoran Vukotic, a former Serbian policeman in Kosovo, pleaded not guilty to war crime charges set before him by the Kosovo Special Prosecution at the opening session at Mitrovica Basic Court on Monday.

“I am not guilty,” Vukotic said after the prosecutor for the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, Paul Flynn read the indictment.

The Special Prosecution charges Vukotic with three counts of war crimes against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population.

The indictment says he participated in an attack on the civilian population between villages Studime e Eperme and Studime e Poshtme, in early May 1999, intentionally subjecting locals to brutal and unlawful killings, inhuman treatment and immense suffering.

Victims of this crime have been identified as: Enver Rustolli, Hamdi Fazliu, Avdulla Fazliu, Fahredin Fazliu, Ekrem Mullaku, Xhavit Mullaku, Fatmir Gerxhaliu, Eshref Rashica, Adnan Bunjaku, Adem [no last name given], Haki Ademi, Shaip Gerxhaliu, Musa Gerxhaliu plus an unnamed 14-year-old boy.

The indictment further describes the unlawful detention of a large number of civilians in the former Agricultural Cooperative Building in Vucitrn/Vushtrri. There, they were intentionally subjected to inhuman treatment and their physical integrity was violated, the indictment says.

The third count of the indictment charges that Vukotic, in his capacity as a police officer reservist in a local police station in Vushtrri/Vucitrn, then acting as a prison guard, took part - along with others - in the unlawful detention of a large number of civilians in the Smrekovnica/Smerkovnice Prison, in the Mitrovica region.

There, he allegedly subjected many civilians to inhumane treatment and immense suffering through torture, beatings and violations of physical integrity and health, as well as the application of measures of intimidation and terror.

Vukotic’s lawyer, Nebojsa Vlajic, said the defence would make use of its right to file objections. “Within the deadline of 30 days, the defence can file its objections against the indictment and in any case we will do it in the coming days,” Vlajic said.

Vukotic was extradited from Montenegro to Kosovo in November 2016.

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