Genocide trial resumes in Kosovo

The trial of Kosovo Serbs Miroslav Vuckovic and Bozur Bisevac on the charge of genocide resumes on 7 December.  The panel of the District Court in Kosovska Mitrovica has ex officio summoned five witnesses, assessing that the testimonies of the 23 witnesses for the prosecution heard so far have not made it possible to establish whether Vuckovic and Bisevac committed the crime of genocide.  Judge Mahmut Halimi, who presides the panel, said the court needed testimonies of the new witnesses in order to determine the facts of the case.

Vuckovic and Bisevac, who is being tried in absentia, are accused of forcing the Albanian inhabitants of Gornji Suvi Do and Gusgevac villages to leave their homes, and of the murder of Hazire Sahiti, an elderly Albanian woman, whose house they allegedly set on fire even though they knew she was inside.

All the witnesses so far said they recognized the defendants as men who were involved in crimes against Albanian civilians.  Their testimonies, however, differed from the statements they gave previously to the  investigating judge, and several were completely contradictory. Defense counsel, including Miodrag Brkljac, Nenad Vukasovic, Miro Delevic and Ljubomir Pantovic, maintained that Kosovo Albanian judges cannot be impartial as they are members of the same ethnic community the defendants, according to the indictment, aimed to “completely or partly destroy.”  The defense also moved for the recusal of international judge Christer Karphammar of Sweden on the grounds that he is not a Yugoslav national.  The Kosovo Supreme Court has in the meantime denied this

Miroslav Vuckovic has been in custody since 23 August last year.  He and Bozur Bisevac were indicted on 29 November 1999.  The trial started on 6 June 2000 and hearings have been postponed many times.

The Humanitarian Law Center observes all trials in Kosovo for ethnically motivated crimes.