Suspended member of Gendarmery accused of war crimes
The Commander of the Gendarmery, Milenko Božović, has suspended Vladan Krstović, a serving officer of this unit, who was indicted by the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) in the Ljubenić case, at the request thereupon submitted by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC). The HLC points out that the Serbian Army and the Ministry of Defence have declined to remove from active duty Serbian Army (SA) officer Pavle Gavrilović and serviceman Rajko Kozlina, who stand trial for the crime against civilians in the village of Trnje in March 1999.
In December 2013, the HLC addressed the Gendarmery with the request that Vladan Krstović be suspended from duty. According to the OWCP indictment brought against him, Krstović, together with other members of the Yugoslav Army’s 177th Military Territorial Detachment (177th MTD), is alleged to have committed the murder of at least 46 Albanian civilians in the village of Ljubenić (the Municipality of Peć) on 1st April 1999. The indictment further charges Krstović with the forcible relocation of women, children and elderly to Albania, the burning of houses and intimidation of civilians. The request was made pursuant to Article 165 (3) of the Law on Police, which stipulates that “a Ministry employee may be temporarily suspended from duty upon a reasoned request by his superior if a final investigation order has been rendered against him for an offense subject to ex officio prosecution or if disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against him for serious violation of police duty and if keeping this person in service would harm the interest of the service.”
In a written reply dated 21thMarch 2014, the HLC was informed that the Commander of the Gendarmery has suspended Krstović until the completion of the criminal proceedings against him.
The HLC points out that an identical request was made to the Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Army, Ljubiša Diković, with respect to an officer and a serviceman of the SA who were accused of taking part in the murder of at least 27 Kosovo Albanian civilians, as former members of the Yugoslav Army’s 549th Motorized Brigade. The request has remained without a response. However, the Serbian Defence Minister, Nebojša Rodić, in a statement given to Danas newspaper, said, commenting on the HLC’s request: “The Ministry of Defence, the Serbian Army and the Military Security Agency will comply only with requests made by the OWCP and the court and respond to all their requests in order to determine whether the criminal offence of a war crime was committed“. The Minister failed to explain the decision not to use the available legal option of suspending those accused of severe crimes for damaging the reputation of the Army.
Reiterating the fact that ten per cent of the 160 individuals indicted so far for war crimes were at the moment of indictment active-duty members of the Serbian police or army, the HLC calls on the state bodies to conduct background checks on all police and army members who took part in operations during which crimes against civilians were committed, in order to assess their suitability for public office.