Natasa Kandic: Letter to Sutanovac

Minister Sutanovac,

In your interview with ‘Pescanik’, published on-line on February 17, 2012 (, you seem very confident when claiming, among other things, that ‘the false Ljubisa Dikovic File’ was written by a man who had lied when saying that there existed a transcript of a conversation between a pilot and his base at Aviano, Italy, during the bombing of the Serbian National Radio and Television (RTS) Building. In the interview, you also claim that in an article published on February 11, 2012 in the daily newspaper Danas, I admitted that General Dikovic was not the commander of the 16th Border Battalions “which killed Muslims,” and that you personally knew that the courts would “prove” all HLC’s claims in this matter to be untrue. In addition, in the interview you say that Dikovic’s name has been “stained,” and by implication lay the responsibility for that at the door of the HLC and you claim that  “contrary to those who focus only on Serbian crimes,” you express sympathy for the victims on all sides.

Let us first address the issue of who is to blame for “staining” General Dikovic’s name: it certainly wasn’t stained by HLC. He stained it himself, by his own action and his failure to act, for even though he knew, or should have known, that units under his control were about to commit the crimes, he failed to take appropriate measures to prevent their execution or to have the perpetrators punished. Minister Sutanovac, you defend the man by citing some criminal charges which General Dikovic allegedly personally filed against perpetrators from within the 37th Motorized Brigade (mtbr). The Generals on trial before the Hague Tribunal (ICTY) invoked the same charges, but their defense counsel failed to prove that there had ever been any serious trial for any of the mass crimes they had been indicted for by the ICTY on the basis of their individual and command responsibility. With regard to the court proceedings initiated following those charges, some of the accused were acquitted as ‘mentally incompetent’, others for lack of evidence. All this can be checked and verified on the publicly available website of The Hague Tribunal.

Furthermore, a document belonging to the 37th mtbr. signed by General Dikovic, certifies that on March 27, 1999, one unit of his brigade arrived at point tt. 692 which, according to the military map, designates a field called Vragodol/Vrogodoll in Kosovo. It is here that Serbian soldiers shot 18 Albanian men, all civilians. And this is surely the best proof that General Dikovic is himself responsible for ‘staining’ his own name. Any further comment would be superfluous.

In the journal Vojska (Army) from July 15, 1999, Dikovic’s officers spoke of the “heroism” of the 37th mtbr. and its commander Ljubisa Dikovic. They claim that Dikovic had been awarded the rank of colonel in 1994, while serving as the commander of the 16th Border Battalion, for his defense of the homeland from the Muslims. Just what, in those years, it meant to ‘defend Serbia from the Muslims’ is very precisely evidenced by a number of trials at The Hague Tribunal. Contrary to your claims that Dikovic was actually studying in Belgrade at the time when Muslim refugees were being killed, HLC sources claim that in 1994 and 1995 Dikovic was, in fact, the commander of the said battalion. We believe our sources to be credible beyond doubt, and by no means do we dismiss that “the court will prove,” as you say, that Dikovic was really away studying during the war in Bosnia. Was he perhaps learning and preparing for the war in Kosovo? In conclusion, I deny none of the facts I have presented, nor have I “rushed” into them, as you say. Your security officers failed to inform you accurately: I personally read and processed every single document subsequently published by the HLC.

In your previous public statements you spoke about a “witness” behind the “false Dikovic File.” Later, in the interview for “Pescanik,” you mention a man who has deceived the public and the families of the RTS employees killed during the NATO bombing. The name of that witness of whom you speak with such contempt is Lakic Djorovic. This man spent two decades as an officer in the Legal Department of the General Staff of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) and the Yugoslav Army (VJ), and served as a court-martial prosecutor in Kosovo. Because he has direct knowledge of the crimes committed in Kosovo, he testified in The Hague Tribunal, where his testimony is considered highly reliable, despite the fact that the defense lawyers of indicted generals attempted, just like you, to declare him mentally incompetent. I met Lakic Djorovic in August 2000, when he came to our office dressed in uniform, introduced himself and told me that he had refused to obey an order from his superiors to compile a criminal charge against me, because everything I had said about “the crimes committed by the army in Kosovo is true.” His troubles began then and are ongoing, because it is clear that our post-war political elites are reluctant to face the war crimes committed by the army and police of the Republic of Serbia. Lakic Djorovic testifies publicly. Unlike dozens of former members of state security and military intelligence services, he never requested that the ICTY to move him to another country, nor did he ask to have his identity altered in order to testify as a protected witness. In its “false File of Ljubisa Dikovic,” the HLC refers to Lakic Djorovic, The Hague witness, because like the international court itself, we consider him to be a reliable witness.

Minister Sutanovac, while threatening with those 7 charges, you less and less frequently mention the HLC’s allegations about the killing of unarmed peasants and women in Drenica. You no longer cite the ‘evidence’ from the War Crimes Prosecution Office, according to which some Albanian witnesses recognized Dikovic as the “benefactor of the Roma children,” nor do you claim any longer that Dikovic is innocent because he was not indicted by the ICTY. Could this mean that you are no longer so sure that the court would rule as untrue the HLC’s allegations about the killing of the civilians?

I suppose you refer to me when you speak of those who, unlike you, “focus only on Serbian crimes.” You, on the other hand, empathize with all victims. My conviction, however, based on the familiarity with the experiences of Germany and post-conflict societies in the past twenty years, is that a crippled rule of law can be restored only by the government’s post-war willingness to prosecute “its own” war crimes. In our case, the rule of law will again be established when the “Serb” crimes (as you tend to call the crimes committed by the armed forces of the Republic of Serbia) are processed in court. Did not the President of Serbia recently, on February 3, 2012, support the initiative of the Croatian President Ivo Josipovic “that every country in the region prosecute its own nationals”?

I am glad that you recall my having informed you of possible mass graves in Pasuljanske livade. You say that mass graves are not your job. And yet, you are a minister, a government official, and it is your job to request that allegations be verified and that the convicted General Nebojsa Pavkovic be interviewed. There are 1,800 persons still recorded as missing from the war in Kosovo, and 1,400 of them are Kosovo Albanians.


Natasa Kandic

Humanitarian Law Center