Letter HLC to Interior Affairs Minister Mr Ivica Dacic

Republic of Serbia, Ministry of the Interior
Interior Affairs Minister Mr. Ivica Dačić

Bulevar Mihaila Pupina 2
11060 Belgrade

Dear Minister,

For the past few days members of the Serbian police in Leskovac have been protesting the arrest of four former members of the 37th Battalion of Special Police Units (SPJ/PJP) of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) of the Republic of Serbia. Yesterday they were joined by reserve members of the police, all of them wearing T-shirts with photographs of the arrested PJP members printed on the front and a message reading Heroes of the 37th Battalion on the back. Police officers Nenad Stojković, (MUP Serbia Lieutenant-Colonel), Zoran Marković, Dragan Milenković, and Zoran Nikolić were arrested after the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint against 17 former members of the 37th PJP Battalion on March 2, 2009 and after TV B92 had aired an interview (with proper voice and image distortion) with police officer–witnesses of the crimes which are the subject matter of the criminal complaint.

Since March 13, 2009, the Police Administration (PA) of the City of Leskovac and the Presidency of the Independent Police Union of the Republic of Serbia have been inciting police officers, who were indicted in the criminal complaint filed by the HLC as those who had committed the crime or ordered the commission of the crime, to organize protests asking for the release of their arrested colleagues and public disclosure of the names of the witnesses. In police circles a rumour has been widely spread that these protests are inspired by the Stop to The Hague operation organized by Milorad Ulemek Legija, during which Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić was killed.

There is an extraordinary situation in the city of Leskovac. A group of about ten police officers acting under the protection of the PA of the City of Leskovac, one of them a former member of the 37th PJP Battalion who allegedly carved the number of Albanians he had killed on his rifle butt, are manipulating the families of killed and wounded policemen by spreading a story that all police officers who served in Kosovo will be arrested. They are openly threatening to kill police officers–witnesses and their children and demanding MUP Serbia disclose the names of police officer–witnesses and that they be tried for “treason”.

The revolt of the members of the 37th PJP Battalion has created great confusion and professional disturbances in the Ministry of the Interior and in the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor. The public has the impression that the leadership of the Ministry of Interior is divided on the arrest of the members of the police who committed war crimes. It is also visible to the public that the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor is intimidated and under great pressure to start investigations into the conduct of police officers.

Dear Mr. Dačić, it is the mandate of the Humanitarian Law Center and my own to document war crimes and alert the public and state institutions. With this letter I am also trying to alert and prompt you to take a public stand and express your opinion on whether perpetrators of war crimes should be arrested or protected.

Dear Mr. Minister, I expect you to encourage professionalism in the police, to invite all those who have knowledge of war crimes to come forward and report it, to protect police officer–witnesses, and send a message to all those who have blood on their hands that the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia will not harbour them.

Finally, allow me remind you that on March 14, 2009 you personally received a delegation from the Police Administration of the City of Leskovac, and according to HLC sources, the aforementioned police officer who was in the habit of carving numbers into his rifle butt and the police officer who personally organized the transportation to, and the incineration of bodies of killed Albanians in, the Mačkatica factory were also in the delegation. That, Mr. Minister, was not good company.

Having high expectations,
Yours Sincerely,

Nataša Kandić
Humanitarian Law Center