Criminal charges against police officers for crimes against 53 Albanian civilians in Poklek

Criminal charges against police officers for crimes against 53 Albanian civilians in Poklek

krivična_prijavaOn 17 August 2015, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed criminal charges against two unidentified members of the 86th Detachment of the Special Police Unit (SPU) of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MoI), on reasonable suspicion that they killed 53 ethnic Albanian civilians, including 24 women and 23 children, on 17 April 1999 in the village of Poklek (Municipality of Glogovac). Criminal charges were also filed against Dragan Obradovic, former commander of the 86th Detachment of the SPU, and against the commander of the company which the perpetrators belonged to, on the charges of not preventing the crime and not punishing the perpetrators.   

On 17 April 1999, around 16:00h, two members of the 86th Detachment of the SPU entered the courtyard of Sinan Muqolli in Poklek, in whose house 59 people were hiding. These were refugees and people from the neighbourhood, mostly women, children and the elderly. Sinan Muqolli came out and told the SPU members that mostly women and children were in his house, but the SPU members ordered that they all come out with their hands up.

When all of them had come out to the courtyard, the police officers searched them and then ordered them to go back into the house and close the door. Sinan Muqolli and Ymer Elshani were kept in the courtyard. After several minutes, the civilians who were inside the house heard bursts of gunfire from the courtyard where Sinan and Ymer were; they were killed on that occasion. Soon after that, one of the police officers smashed the window of the room where the women, children and the elderly were,  opened the door violently and threw a bomb into the room, which exploded immediately. After several minutes, the same police officer came into the room to check whether there were any survivors. He instantly killed the ones who were still alive, using an automatic rifle. After having killed almost all the civilians in the house, the police officers took two cans of petrol and burned the room where the bodies of the killed civilians were. Four persons, among them a child of two, who had survived the bombs and shooting but  had not left the room on time, were burned alive.

A total of 53 civilians were killed in this crime; among them 24 women and 23 children. Most of the children were less then seven years old, and two one-year old babies were also killed. Six persons survived.

So far, nobody has been held accountable for this crime.

Along with the criminal charges, the HLC submitted 26 pieces of evidence to the Office for the War Crimes Prosecutor, among which were statements of the survivors and documents of the Yugoslav Army and Ministry of the Interior.

The document of the Ministry of Interior which was used as evidence in the Šainović et al.  Case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, confirmed that the 86th Detachment of the SPU was present in Poklek on the day of crime a conclusion reached on the basis of  the description of the perpetrators’ uniforms by the survivors. In Poklek and its surroundings, at the time of the crime there was a military-police action in which the 15th Armoured Brigade of the Yugoslav Army (YA) participated, and the 37th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army as well. Therefore, the commanders and members of these two brigades should provide all the information about the crime and its perpetrators to the OWCP.

More details on the crime can be seen on the website Zone of (non)responsibility.