Officers Indicted of Crimes Against Civilians in Trnje Should Be Suspended from Serbian Army

Officers Indicted of Crimes Against Civilians in Trnje Should Be Suspended from Serbian Army

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) demands that the Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, Ljubiša Diković, suspends Pavle Gavrilović and Rajko Kozlina, persons indicted for the crime in Trnje committed against Kosovo Albanians on March 25th, 1999, from the Serbian Armed Forces, until the completion of the proceedings.

The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) filed an indictment on November 6th, 2013 against an officer and a non-commissioned officer in the Serbian Army, Pavle Gavrilović and Rajko Kozlina respectively, for war crime against civilian population. The indictment charges them with killing at least 27 civilians on March 25th, 1999 in the village of Trnje, near Suva Reka in Kosovo– older men, women and children – including one four-year-old boy, as former members of the 549th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army (YA) together with other members of the Logistics Battalion. It can be inferred from the OWCP press release that the accused are still active officers of the Serbian Armed Forces.

The HLC points out that according to Article 77 of the Law on the Serbian Armed Forces, a serviceman may be suspended if indicted of a criminal offence of “such nature that it would harm the interests of the service to keep this person in service”.

According to the indictment, Pavle Gavrilović issued an order to “spare no lives” in the village, whilst Rajko Kozlina is alleged to have shot an old man in the head in order to demonstrate to the other soldiers how to kill civilians. Two former members of the 549th YA MtBr testified about the role and responsibility of Gavrilović and Kozlina in the case against Slobodan Milošević (K-41 and K-32) and in the case of Milan Milutinović et al. in 2007 (K-82 and K-54).

By keeping persons indicted of war crimes in institutions responsible for the enforcement of laws and security of citizens, the institutions of the Republic of Serbia further complicate the process of restoring trust in the work of institutions which participated in the commission and concealment of some of the most grievous atrocities during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

In May 2008, the HLC filed a criminal complaint against 11 members of the 549th MtBr under the suspicion that they committed the crime in Trnje.

In March 2013, the HLC published a Dossier on the operations of the 549th Motorized Brigade of the YA, which describes the participation of members of this unit in the crime in Trnje, including the acts of Gavrilović and Kozlina.