OWCP showed no genuine will to investigate crimes committed by the 37th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army

OWCP showed no genuine will to investigate crimes committed by the 37th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army

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The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) informed the public on Friday, January 30th, 2015 that it has requested from the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) the „entire documentation relating to the Rudnica Case“. The OWCP stated that 53 bodies have been identified at the Rudnica location so far, on the basis of which pre-trial proceedings have been launched, adding that they are requesting the documents from the HLC for the purpose of gathering further information on the crimes, which were, according to the allegations of the HLC, committed by members of the Yugoslav Army and Ministry of the Interior in April and May 1999“. The OWCP also reminded the general public that in January 2012 they established, on the basis of an inspection of the HLC’s allegations, that there were no grounds for the suspicion that General Ljubiša Diković was responsible for the war crimes alleged in the Ljubiša Diković Dossier.

The HLC points out that the OWCP’s request for documents from the HLC relating to Rudnica is an indicator of a years long failure to act upon the evidence concerning the crimes committed in the area of responsibility of the 37th MtBr – evidence which is already in the possession of the OWCP, and to which it has free access.

The HLC would like to use this occasion to point to the unprofessional actions the OWCP has so far undertaken with regard to the establishment of facts about the crimes in which the persons whose bodies were found in the mass grave in Rudnica were killed, and with regard to the checking of the allegations presented in the Ljubiša Diković Dossier published in January 2012. In both regards, the OWCP was exclusively influenced by public statements relating to the national interests and the expectations of the highest ranking government representatives, thus neglecting its legal obligation to bring the responsible individuals to justice and protect the rights of victims. 

1. The HLC would like to remind the public that the exhumations in Rudnica had already begun in 2007, and that the first bodies were found in 2013. However, three years before the first bodies were found – that is to say, in May 2010 – the OWCP already had information that bodies transferred „from primary graves in the area of Drenica, Kosovo and Metohija in late May or early June 1999“ were buried in Rudnica. This means that the OWCP already had information in May 2010 that the bodies had been brought from Drenica, the area of responsibility of the 37th Motorized Brigade. We have no information as to whether or not any member of the 37th MtBr, including the Commander of the Clearing-up Squad of this Brigade, Rade Krsmanović, or his Deputy, Hasan Čorbić, or their immediate superior officer, Commander of the 37th MtBR Ljubiša Diković, have ever been interrogated with regard to the existence of primary graves in this Brigade’s area of responsibility. 

2. The request for the delivery of the „entire documentation“ on which the „Rudnica“ Dossier is based undoubtedly shows, among other things, that during the previous period, the OWCP did not in any way attempt to gather the easily accessible documents which would have clarified the circumstances of the killing and transfer of the bodies to the mass grave in Rudnica. In fact, over 90% of the documents that the Rudnica Dossier is based on represent authentic military and police documents which the state had handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for the purpose of the prosecution of the crimes committed in Kosovo (which were then presented as exhibits in the Milošević, Milutinović et al, and V. Đorđević Cases). They have been available to every individual and institution at the ICTY’s web page since 2009. They may be searched according to location, date, military and police units, names, keywords, and other criteria. What is more, thanks to the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation with the ICTY Office of the Prosecutor, the OWCP has had access to non-public documents, that is to say, to military and police documents, which were not presented as evidence, and it also has a permanent „liaison officer“ in the ICTY Office of the Prosecutor.

3. Some ten percent of the documents on which the „Rudnica“ Dossier is based represent statements given by witnesses/eyewitnesses – family members of the killed, whose bodies were found in Rudnica. If the OWCP had really intended to establish the circumstances under which these victims, whose bodies were found in Rudnica, were killed, they would have had enough time during the five months from the establishment of the victims’ identities, to reach these witnesses through cooperation with EULEX (which headed the investigation on the crimes described in the „Rudnica“ Dossier), and examine them regarding the killing and relocation of their closest family members. 

4. After the publication of the Ljubiša Diković Dossier in January 2012, in which the HLC presented allegations and evidence pointing to the involvement of the 37th MtBr in the crimes against more than 400 Kosovo Albanian civilians in the area of responsibility of the 37th MrBr, in less than 48 hours (during which time representatives of the executive government branch had already „decided“ that the HLC’s allegations were „untrue“ and „monstrous“) the OWCP issued a press statement (available in Serbian) in which it informed the public that it had inspected the allegations of the HLC and that „there is no basis for suspicion regarding the criminal responsibility of the Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Army, General Diković, for war crimes.“

5. In its defence of Ljubiša Diković in its press statement, the OWCP further used a political argument which is quite popular among the general public, and which finds its expression in the following position: „If there was any suspicion that General Diković was responsible for war crimes in Kosovo and Metohija, the Hague Tribunal would have initiated proceedings against him in line with its jurisdiction and practice (since General Diković at that time held a rank equivalent to the rank of the then accused – for instance, those accused in the „Šljivančanin et al“ Case).“ As the OWCP already knows, this argument is unsustainable, because the ICTY Office of the Prosecutor prosecuted only the very highest ranking military and police officers for the crimes committed in Kosovo, and not a single officer at the level of a Brigade Commander. Finally, the OWCP only confuted its own argument by launching an investigation against the Commander of the 125th Motorized Brigade, Dragan Živanović, in 2014, for crimes committed in Kosovo. In fact, if the ICTY had had jurisdiction to prosecute individuals responsible for crimes at the level of Brigade Commander, as the OWCP groundlessly claims, then it would have prosecuted Dragan Živanović as well, particularly if one bears in mind that the ICTY had analysed in its judgements the crimes committed in the area of responsibility of this Brigade.

6. In the press release in which it denied the HLC’s allegations presented in the Ljubiša Diković Dossier of January 2012, the OWCP not only denied the HLC’s allegations, but it also used what for an institution like the OWCP was a very unusual „eulogy to the humaneness“ of General Diković. Namely, the OWPC pointed out to the public that it has no documents containing information on the involvement of Diković in crimes, but that it has statements given by certain Roma boys whom Diković helped in Pusto Selo (a village which is not even mentioned in the Dossier and located in the Municipality of Orahovac).  

7. It is clear from the content of this press release and the speed with which they allegedly inspected the findings from the HLC’s „Ljubiša Diković“ Dossier, that the OWCP did not respect the working principles prescribed by the law, and in particular the obligation to protect the injured parties (victims). In fact, allegations as to nine separate crimes committed during 1998 and 1999 throughout Kosovo, in which some 400 civilians were killed, were presented in the HLC’s Dossier. Considering the extent of these crimes, a comprehensive and unbiased investigation would demand the taking of statements from a large number of potential witnesses – eyewitnesses of the crimes. One could draw a reasonable conclusion that 48 hours is not enough time to inspect allegations about crimes of this gravity. 

Finally, is there a logical explanation for the fact that it took less than 48 hours to inspect allegations on the killing of more than 400 civilians, and that it was all checked „with two clicks” on the computer, whereas when it comes to the establishment of the circumstances relating to the killing of victims whose bodies were found in Rudnica, in a case in which the OWCP has been aware since 2010 that these were the bodies of people killed in Drenica, we have been awaiting an answer for five years already?

8. Not only did the OWCP deny the allegations made in the Ljubiša Diković Dossier in 2012, but it also defended the army and its engagement during the war, referring to it as an „unblemished“ institution, thus joining the attack launched by the Ministry of Defence (MD) and other political actors claiming that this was a case of a well-planned attack carried out following instructions from abroad against the Serbian Army. So, in the show  Da možda ne (Yes Maybe No) broadcast on January 26th, 2012 on RTS (1:03), dedicated to the „Ljubiša Diković“ Dossier, the then spokesman of the OWCP, Bruno Vekarić, following the pattern of accusations that have been used yet again over these past few days with regard to the „Rudnica“ Dossier by government representatives, agreed with the statement given by a representative of the MD that the HLC deliberately chose the moment to publish false allegations about the Chief of General Staff in order to damage the reputation of the state and the army at the moment of the progress of Serbia in the European integration process. 

9. The OWCP’s lack of professional work in cases which, according to the assessment of political actors, could cause political harm and damage the reputation of the Republic of Serbia, is also apparent in their actions in the case of the concentration camps for Bosniaks in Serbia. Namely, after the HLC filed a criminal complaint for war crimes committed against a civilian population against more than 50 members of the Ministry of the Interior, Yugoslav Army, and State Security Agency, for murder, abuse and inhuman treatment, the OWCP dismissed the criminal complaint without hearing even one of the 70 proposed Bosniak witnesses – victims of abuse and inhumane treatment. Because of the failure to launch an independent and comprehensive investigation, the HLC filed a Constitutional Complaint with the Constitutional Court of Serbia, followed by an application to the European Court of Human Rights.    

Finally, the HLC calls upon the OWCP to conduct a professional, independent and comprehensive investigation into the crimes indubitably committed in the area of responsibility of the 37th Motorized Brigade and the concealment of bodies in the mass grave in Rudnica, in line with the Constitution and the law, and in the interest of  justice and the truth.           

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