Pecuniary Compensation for Murder of Albanian Behram Gigollaj committed in Serbia during NATO Air Strikes

The First Municipal Court in Belgrade rendered a verdict on 12 June 2008 ordering the Republic of Serbia to pay damages to Ryvi, Gani, Haki, Lumnije, and Asman Gigollaj, the wife and children of late Behram Gigollaj, who was beaten to death by unidentified assailants on 24 March 1999 in Mataruška Banja, in the amount of three million dinars, because of the state’s responsibility for failing to prevent the assault.

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a compensation lawsuit against the Republic of Serbia on 19 September 2007 on behalf of late Behram Gigollaj’s family within the context of its programme of support to victims of past human rights violations in exercising their right to reparation.

Behram Gigollaj moved to Mataruška Banja from Kosovo in 1988 where he opened a bakery. His sons occasionally helped him in the management of the bakery. During the night when the NATO air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) began, 24 March 1999, Behram and his son Gani started work around 23:00. Soon after this time, a group of five or six unidentified young men broke into the bakery. As soon as they came in, they started kicking and punching Behram and his son, and then they started hitting them with the blunt end of an axe. Ten minutes later, the group ran out of the bakery. Gani found his father in front of the bakery lying unconscious in a pool of blood. The ambulance arrived soon afterwards and they took Behram to hospital. Gani spent the night at their neighbour’s.

The police examined Gani the following day, but they did not provide an interpreter for him, even though he could not understand Serbian very well. Several days after this event, Gani fled from Serbia to Albania in order to meet with his family which had fled there from Kosovo. Behram Gigollaj, who stayed in hospital in Kraljevo, died on 28 March 1999. The family received his mortal remains through ICRC only in September 2000.

During the night of 24 March 1999, all Albanian shops in Kraljevo and Mataruška Banja were demolished. According to HLC information, Behram Gigollaj and his son were assaulted in the moment when the police had already obtained information about attacks on shops owned by FRY citizens of Albanian nationality. However, the police did not take any measures in order to protect endangered Albanians, which represents a violation of their constitutional and legal obligation to protect all citizens regardless of their nationality. According to the HLC information, in the period before the armed conflict in Kosovo had broken out, members of the Kraljevo Police Station, regularly secured businesses owned by Albanians during the protests.

HLC filed a criminal complaint against unidentified perpetrators of this assault on 14 April 2006. However, since then the authorities have not disclosed any information on the progress of the investigation.

Point of Contact:
Sandra Orlović, Project Coordinator