HLC files a criminal complaint against war-time officials of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia for war crimes committed against civilian population

On May 28, 2010 Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a compensation lawsuit with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia against 34 individuals on charges of their personal responsibility for the murder of 90 and the wounding of over 150 Albanian prisoners in the KPZ Dubrava penitentiary, near Istok in Kosovo (hereinafter referred to as: KPZ Dubrava).

The criminal complaint was filed against Dragoljub Janković, the-then Minister of Justice in the Government of the Republic of Serbia;Zoran Stevanović, the-then Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Serbia and Chief-of-Staff of the Administration for the Enforcement of Penal and Correctional Sanctions of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia; Obrad Stevanović police general, the-then assistant to the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia for the Department of Public Security (RJB), commander of the Special Police Unit (PJP), and deputy commander of the Headquarters for Kosovo and Metohija of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) of the Republic of Serbia; Boro Vlahović, the-then Chief-of-Staff of the Peć/Pejë Internal Affairs Secretariat (SUP Peć/Pejë); Radovan Paponjak, police colonel, the-then Chief-of-Staff of the Department of Traffic Police of the SUP Peć/Pejë; Aleksandar Rakočević, the-then chief administrator of the KPZ Dubrava; and Miroljub Vidić, guard commander of the KPZ Dubrava, a number of commanding officers, security personnel, an unspecified number of KPZ Dubrava check-in booth attendants/guards, and other persons such as MUP Serbia members, SUP Peć/Pejë members, OUP Istok members, OUP Klina members, PJP members, Special Operation Unit (JSO) members, State Security of the Republic of Serbia and Yugoslav Army members (VJ) on charges of the commitment of a criminal act of war crime against civilian population from Article 142, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (KZ SRJ) in connection with article 22 of the KZ SRJ as co-perpetrators.

In compliance with the then applicable legislation, i.e. the Law on Execution of Criminal Sanctions (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 16/99), the Law on Establishing  Responsibilities of the Republic of Serbia in Executing Criminal and Misdemeanor Sanctions (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 79/9), and the Law on Resolution of Conflicts of Law and Conflicts of Jurisdiction in Execution of Criminal Sanctions (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 12/98), as well as all other legal regulations relevant for their implementation – all issues relevant to the implementation of criminal sanctions including possible relocation of prisoners and detainees were exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia, i.e. the Administration for the Enforcement of Penal and Correctional Sanctions.

The-then Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia, i.e. the accused Dragoljub Janković as Justice Minister and the Administration for the Enforcement of Penal and Correctional Sanctions, i.e. the accused Zoran Stevanović as the then Chief-of-Staff (director), were without doubt in charge and responsible, among other things, for the proper operation of the security service, prison guard and watch service in all penal-correctional facilities, i.e. in charge of maintaining order and discipline in such facilities, including the restoration of order and discipline in case of their disruption.
Other state organs, including the armed forces of the Republic of Serbia (MUP and VJ) can only be included in the restoration of order and discipline in penal-correctional facilities once they are disrupted by invitation of the Ministry of Justice, i.e. its Administration for the Enforcement of Penal and Correctional Sanctions. This procedure is applied in peace as well as war times. The crime at KPZ Dubrava was committed during war time.

Dragoljub Janković, as the Minister of Justice in the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and Zoran Stevanović, as Deputy Minister of Justice and Chief-of-Staff (director) of the Administration for the Enforcement of Penal and Correctional Sanctions of the Ministry of Justice in the Government of the Republic of Serbia, compiled and dispatched a written order to administrators of penal-correctional facilities  and prison administrators of investigative prisons throughout Serbia in mid-April 1999 or around this date instructing them to move all Albanian prisoners serving time in these facilities to KPZ Dubrava. At the end of April and beginning of May 1999, 1,004 Albanian prisoners were brought to KPZ Dubrava. Among them were several dozens of political prisoners, former police officers and other MUP Serbia employees, officials and employees of Serbia’s State Security centres from Kosovo who had been expelled from their state service jobs by Serbian authorities.

The accused, who at the time of the commitment of the crime in question, held commanding positions, had a full and effective control over all other accused individuals who were subordinated to them as well as other members of state (police, military, state security) organs, including all individuals who were present on the premises, in the buildings, and in the area of KPZ Dubrava based on any arrangement. The KPZ Dubrava area encompassed a space fenced with strong, fire-arm controlled walls, additionally enforced by chicken wire, guarded by personnel stationed in observation posts, secured by reflectors, technical electronic surveillance and alarm systems, dozens of guards, watchmen, and specially trained police officers. Naturally, the KPZ Dubrava compound could only be visited by the accused while their superiors had to file official visitor forms stating their name and the purpose of their visit, meaning they could only visit KPZ Dubrava in their official capacity. This rule is applied in both peace and war times. The chain of command in the state structure employed in securing the KPZ Dubrava, at the time of the commitment of the crime, in the period from May 16 to May 24, 1999, was never interrupted, not even for a short period of time.

Instead of providing full and uncompromised protection of the prisoners incarcerated in KPZ Dubrava, the accused, following the orders imparted by their hierarchical superiors, planned, organized, and ordered the execution of unarmed Albanian prisoners in which they participated themselves. For the purpose of executing the Albanian prisoners, the accused, for this purpose, armed prisoners of Serbian and Montenegro nationality and instructed them to take part in the execution of the Albanian prisoners, which is just another proof of full and effective control the accused superior command officers had over the accused that were subordinated to them, over all other employees of KPZ Dubrava, as well as the prisoners of this facility.

The accused are (not only) liable to criminal charges on the grounds of command responsibility, but also for their personal responsibility for all war crimes listed in this criminal complaint because of their failure to prevent or stop the execution of Albanian prisoners, because of their failure to punish or request the punishment of those who ordered and executed the Albanian prisoners, and because they carefully contrived, planned, ordered, and participated in the commitment of the crime, after which they undertook measures to cover up the crime and hide direct perpetrators.

It can be concluded with certainty that the accused Obrad Stevanović, as one of the superior officers from the MUP Serbia Headquarters for Kosovo must have participated in the commitment of such a large scale crime, because in the time of war such an operation could not have been completed without him not being informed about it. Furthermore, since the Ministry of Justice had exclusive jurisdiction over all issues concerning the legal status and the rights of prisoners and detainees, including their relocation to different facilities (individual, group, or collective-whole), it is obvious that all of this has been planned and coordinated following an agreement made by the Ministry of Justice and MUP Serbia, i.e. the MUP Serbia Headquarters for Kosovo.

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