Yugoslav Soldiers Accused of Killing Kosovo Albanians

A Serbian rights group has filed charges against several former Yugoslav Army troops over the killings of 21 Kosovo Albanians during the conflict in 1999.

Belgrade’s Humanitarian Law Centre on Thursday filed criminal charges to the Serbian war crimes prosecutor’s office against a former Yugoslav Army commander and several other former servicemen, accusing them of being responsible for the 1999 killings in the villages of Goden and Zulfaj/Zylfa, near the Kosovo town of Djakovica/Gjakove.

Those charged include Dusko Sljivancanin, former commander of the 53rd Border Battalion of the Yugoslav Army and currently a representative of the commander of the Serbian Army’s land forces training centre, Vasilij Rangelov, a Yugoslav Army sergeant, and a number of unidentified soldiers from the 53rd Border Battalion of the Yugoslav Army.

According to statements made by people living in the villages that were attacked, Yugoslav Army soldiers entered the village of Goden on the morning of March 25, 1999, where most of the men were gathered at one family’s house for a wake.

“Yugoslav Army soldiers entered the Morina family’s house, drove them all out, lined them up in front of another villager´s house and ordered them to raise their hands above their heads. All this time they were pointing guns at the men,” the Humanitarian Law Centre, HLC said in the document sent to the prosecutor.

“Meanwhile, Yugoslav Army soldiers were driving other citizens of the village out of their houses… At a later stage, the elderly, women and children were forced to leave the village and move towards Albania,” the HLC said.

After the conflict, human remains were found in the villages. It was established that they belonged to four men, but their identities could not be established.

On the same morning, soldiers from the 53rd Border Battalion of the Yugoslav Army entered the neighboring village of Zulfaj/Zylfaj.

According to the HLC, they ordered Albanian citizens to come out of their houses and leave the village in a column and head towards the town of Djakovica/Gjakove.

During the attack on the village, one elderly man was killed.

“When unidentified Yugoslav Army soldiers entered the house of the Prushi family and ordered the people in the house to leave the village, Muhamet Prushi (84 years old) refused to do so. In response to this, an unidentified Yugoslav Army soldier fired his automatic rifle and shot Muhamet, who was lying on the bed, in front of Muhamet’s family members,” the HLC said in the charges filed.

The HLC said that Yugoslav Army documents and eyewitness statements prove that the 53rd Border Battalion’s commander breached the Geneva Conventions.

The war crimes prosecutor is now obliged to investigate the case and decide whether there are grounds to indict the soldiers.

The Serbian defence ministry has declined to comment on the allegations.

Marija Ristic