New Sentence for Radojko Repanović in the Suva Reka War Crime Case

On December 15, 2010, the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the High Court in Belgrade handed down a new sentence in the case of Radojko Repanović, sentencing him to 20 years in prison for the war crime against the civilian population in Suva Reka/Suharekë. The Trial Chamber accepted the the opinion and arguments stated by Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor Mioljub Vitorović in his closing argument.

The Humanitarian Law Center believes that the main deficiency of the trial for the execution of 48 Berisha family members lies in the fact that the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the Appellate Court of Belgrade upheld the first-instance decision which acquitted Radoslav Mitrović, commander of the 37th Battalion of the Special Police Unit (PJP) of criminal responsibility for the crime committed in Suva Reka/ Suharekë. This decision prompted the refusal of the Berisha family members to monitor the re-trail of Radojko Repanović, former commander of the Suva Reka/ Suharekë police station.

The accused Radojko Repanović was sentenced on the following charges: as commander of the Suva Reka/ Suharekë Internal Affairs Department (OUP), on March 26, 2010, in the background of an ongoing conflict between Yugoslav Army (YA) units and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) units, the accused formed a group of active and reserve police officers of OUP Suva Reka/ Suharekë and ordered them to attack and kill the Albanian civilians from the Berisha family settlement with houses of the Berisha family and other Albanian families. After that, the accused formed another group of police officers and ordered them to help the Civil Defence staff load the bodies of the executed Albanian civilians onto a truck and drive them away from the crime scene.

The re-trial in this case began on November 10, 2010. There were three trial days during which three witnesses, including the accused Miroslav Petković were questioned, while the accused Slađan Čukarić refused to testify. The Trial Chamber also heard court-appointed experts who had conducted a psychological-psychiatric expertise of the mental health of witness Velibor Veljković because of the fact that this witness gave several different statements with respect to the events of the day in question. In assessing the testimonies of this witness, the Trial Chamber ruled that his statements were unusual in some parts, but that they were quite consistent with respect to the fact that on March 26, 2010 the accused Radojko Repanović ordered the execution of Albanian civilians to one group of police officers and the he also ordered another group to load their bodies onto a truck.

Although this witness was unable to remember the exact words the accused Repanović used in his order, President of the Trial Chamber Justice Vinka Beraha-Nikićević declared that it was of no importance for the court because in reality the order was executed and innocent civilians were killed by the accused Slađan Čukarić and Miroslav Petković, the late Radoslav Tanović and other unidentified police officers.

In the explanation of the sentence, the President of the Trial Chamber considered as extenuating circumstances the fact that the accused had no prior convictions and the fact that he was a father of two children, and as aggravating, she stated the fact that if he had not issued the order to kill them, 48 innocent individuals would have been alive today.

The decision of the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the Belgrade District Court handed down on April 23, 2009 sentenced the accused Radojko Repanović and Slađan Čukarić to 20 years in prison each, Miroslav Nišević to 13 years in prison, and Miroslav Petković to 15 years in prison while Radoslav Mitrović, Nenad Jovanović, and Zoran Petković were acquitted of criminal responsibility. On June 30, 2010 the Appellate Court of Belgrade upheld the first-instance decision in its entirety except in the part concerning the accused Radojko Repanović and ordered a retrial in his case.