ICTY Appeals Chamber’s Judgment against Vlastimir Đorđević
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today delivered its final guilty verdict against the former Assistant Minister of Internal Affairs of Serbia and Chief of its Public Security Division (RJB) Vlastimir Đorđević, reducing his sentence to 18 years of prison, instead of 27 years as initially imposed.
The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) underlines that this judgment, in its factual and legal conclusions, affirmed both the systematic character of the crimes committed against Kosovo Albanian civilians during the 1998-1999 armed conflict in Kosovo and the key role played by Serbian institutions and their responsibility for the crimes. However, the HLC considers that sympathy for the defendant because of his age cannot constitute sufficient grounds for reducing the sentence of Vlastimir Đorđević, given the consequences of his acts – especially the number of persons killed and disappeared, and Đorđević’s responsibility for the continued suffering of victims’ family members because the bodies of their loved ones were hidden.
The Appeals Chamber found that Vlastimir Đorđević was one of the participants in a joint criminal enterprise which had the purpose of changing the ethnic composition of Kosovo and thus establishing Serbian control over this province. Đorđević contributed to the enterprise especially through his key role in the coordinated action for transferring bodies from Kosovo to several localities in Serbia, in order to remove traces of crimes. In 2001, as the Trial Chamber established, 744 bodies were exhumed in Batajnica, 61 in Petrovo Selo and the mortal remains of 84 persons killed in Kosovo were found in the Perućac Lake. The decision to hide the bodies of killed Kosovo Albanians was taken by Slobodan Milošević, at a meeting he held with senior police officials. Present at the meeting were the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Vlajko Stojiljković, Vlastimir Đorđević, and the Chief of the State Security Service, Rade Marković.
General Đorđević was in charge of the entire active-duty and reserve forces of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) in Kosovo, including the Special Police Units and the Special Anti-terrorist Unit, whose members committed numerous murders of civilians, including the massacre of women and children in Suva Reka and Podujevo, and the mass killing in Mala Kruša near Orahovac, where 114 men and boys were shot dead and their bodies set on fire.
The Trial Chamber’s judgment pronounced in February 2011, sentenced Đorđević to 27 years in prison, having been found guilty on all five counts of the indictment, charging him for crimes committed against Albanian civilians in 1999 in Kosovo. Four of the counts concern deportation, forcible displacement, killing and persecution, qualified as crimes against humanity, and one involves murder as a violation of the laws and customs of war.
The HLC calls on the competent institutions, on the basis of the immense volume of evidentiary material available in the Đorđević and Šainović et al. cases, to energetically prosecute all persons responsible for the commission and covering up of crimes, emphasizing that important positions within institutions, privileges and decorations must not get in the way of bringing those responsible for mass crimes to justice.