Persons Indicted for War Crimes in Police Uniform

Persons Indicted for War Crimes in Police Uniform

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) demands that the Gendarmerie Commander, Milenko Božović, and Police Director, Milorad Veljović, use the option offered by the law and suspend the Gendarmerie Commander, Vladan Krstović, indicted for the war crime committed against Kosovo Albanians in Ljubenić on April 1st, 1999, until the completion of the proceedings in question.

The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) filed an indictment against Vladan Krstović (a.k.a. “Džudža”), a member of the Gendarmerie, for war crimes against civilian population on November 22nd, 2013. The indictment alleges that he, together with other members of the 177th Military Territorial Detachment (177th MTD) in the village of Ljubenić (the Municipality of Peć), committed the murder of at least 46 Albanian civilians on April 1st, 1999. The indictment of the OWCP also charges Krstović with the forcible relocation of women, children and elderly to Albania, burning of houses and intimidation of civilians.

Krstović had stood trial for an attempted murder, but he was acquitted by the judgment of the second instance in May this year.

The HLC warns that the retention of Krstović in police service, despite the charges for war crimes, will have a negative effect on the decision of victims and witnesses to participate in these court proceedings. An indicted war criminal who comes to stand trial straight from his duty in the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MUP RS), directly undermines the efforts of the institutions involved in the process of establishing responsibility for war crimes.

The HLC also stresses that the MUP RS bears a special responsibility and obligation to maintain the integrity of war crimes trials, since the MUP RS, including its high-ranking officials, had a key role in the commission and concealment of crimes committed against Albanian civilians in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999.

The measure of temporary suspension is prescribed by the Law on Police (Article 165 Paragraph 3): “A Ministry employee may be temporarily suspended from duty, upon a reasoned request by the person in command, when a final investigation order is rendered against him for an offense subject to ex officio prosecution or if a request is filed to establish the employee’s disciplinary responsibility for serious violation of police duty and if his presence at work would be harmful for the interest of the service.”

The HLC calls upon the Minister of the Interior, Ivica Dačić, to establish a standing and comprehensive procedure of control for members of the MUP, which would include, besides the announced security and psychophysical checks, an investigation into their wartime past also, that is, into their responsibility for committing or concealing crimes, and for their failure to prevent violations of human rights during the armed conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

In October 2013, the HLC published the Dossier on the operation of the 125th Motorized Brigade, which describes the participation of members of the 177th MTD in the crime committed in Ljubenić, as well as in crimes committed in Ćuška, Pavljan, and Zahać.

In November, the HLC demanded that the Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Army, Ljubiša Diković, suspend the Serbian Army officer, Pavle Gavrilović, and non-commissioned officer Rajko Kozlina, who are indicted for the crime committed against civilians in the village of Trnje in March 1999.