Suva Reka Victims’ Family Members: We Can No Longer Trust the Courts in Serbia

Family members of victims of the crimes committed against women and children in Suva Reka, Kosovo, who monitored the war crimes trial held before the War Crimes Trial Chamber in Belgrade, agreed to attend the trial believing the assessment of the Humanitarian Law Center that the trial would be fair and professional to a certain extent.

Unfortunately during the course of the trial it became clear that the main goal of the Trial Chamber was not to establish the facts about the crime, but to offer legitimacy to an interpretation of the war acts of the Serbian army and the police, instead of establishing the responsibility of those to be held accountable for the execution of 50 members of the Berisha family, including 18 children. At the end of the trial, the War Crimes Trial Chamber acquitted Radoslav Mitrović of all charges, who was at the time of the event commander of the 37th Battalion of the Special Police Unit and who was also the most responsible individual on the day of the execution of 50 Berisha family members.

Even before we, the victims’ family members, came to Belgrade to monitor the trial, we were sceptical that the trial would be fair. Unfortunately, it turned out that we were right, because people working in the Serbian institutions are not ready to condemn and punish those responsible for the execution of women and children, and instead pronounce them heroes.

As victims’ family members, we suffer because of the injustices of the Serbian judiciary, particularly the Appellate Court of Belgrade, which we expected to rectify the mistakes initially made by the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the District Court of Belgrade. Unfortunately the Appellate Court of Belgrade decided to send certain messages and to diminish the responsibility of the accused Radojko Repanović, commander of the Suva Reka police station, reducing his sentence while transferring responsibility for the acts to several lower-ranking police officers. For that reason, we decide not to monitor the retrial of Commander Repanović.

Regardless of our negative opinion of the trial chamber and the judges of the trial chamber in Belgrade, we will continue to exert pressure on the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia to push forward in prosecuting war crimes perpetrators and raising indictments not only against the 8 accused individuals named in this case but also against those who appeared as witnesses in this trial and who held high positions in Suva Reka and Prizren at the time of the event, for the crimes committed on March 22, 25, and 26, 1999. Most of these witnesses testified that they knew nothing about those crimes, although it was established that they were not only well aware of the crimes but that further they initiated the first investigation of the crimes committed on March 25, 1999. The same institutions are still killing us today by withholding the truth about our loved ones, most of whom were transferred to mass graves in Serbia so that those who killed them could show their own children that they could go unpunished even after killing the weakes – 9 month-olds and 100-year olds.

Victims’ Family Members:
Hysni Berisha, Xhelal Berisha, Florim Berisha, Betim Berisha, Idriz Haxhiaj