First victims’ testimonies at trial for crime in Trnje
The trial against an officer and a non-commissioned officer in the Serbian Army, Pavle Gavrilović and Rajko Kozlina, for the crime committed against a civilian population in the village of Trnje in March 1999, continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 27th and 28th, 2015, in Courtroom 2 of the Special Court. After the postponement of the previous five main hearings, victims and eyewitnesses of the crime will appear for the first time to testify in the trial session.
The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) filed an indictment [available in Serbian] against active duty officer and non-commissioned officer in the Serbian Army, Pavle Gavrilović and Rajko Kozlina, for a war crime against a civilian population. The indictment charges them with the allegation that on March 25th, 1999, they killed at least 27 civilians, citizens of the village of Trnje, near Suva Reka in Kosovo, all older men, women, and children, including a four-year-old boy, in their capacity as former members of the 549th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army (549th VJ MtBr); which crime they committed together with other members of the Logistics Batallion.
According to the indictment, Pavle Gavrilović issued the order that “no one should be left alive“ in the village, and Rajko Kozlina shot an old man in the head in order to show other soldiers how to kill civilians. Two former members of the 549th VJ MtBt testified under protective measures 13 years ago, in the trial of Slobodan Milošević (K-41 and K-32), on the role and responsibility of Gavrilović and Kozlina for the crimes committed, and they testified again in 2007 in the case of Milan Milutinović et al. (K-82 and K-54).
At the moment when the indictment was filed, Gavrilović and Kozlina were still active duty soldiers in the Serbian Army (VS) and, information available to the HLC suggests that they have not been discharged to date. Following the filing of the indictment, the HLC sent a request to the VS Chief of General Staff, Ljubiša Diković, in November 2013, asking him to suspend the persons accused of committing war crimes from military service, in line with the Law on the Armed Forces of Serbia. Pursuant to Article 77 of the Law on the Armed Forces of Serbia [available in Serbian], a professional military person should be removed from duty if criminal charges have been brought against him/her and the crime is of such a nature that it would be „harmful for the interest of the service that such a person remains on duty“.
The Ministry of Defence dismissed the request for information of public importance sent by the HLC with regard to the status of the accused in the VS following the filing of the indictment, alleging that the information requested is to be protected as personal information and information “relevant for the protection of the country”. The deadline for the execution of the decision by the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance expired more than 16 months ago, and the Ministry has not yet delivered the information requested. On September 22nd, 2015, the Commissioner finally rendered an Enforcement Decision [available in Serbian] ordering the Ministry to deliver the information requested by the HLC within 2 days under threat of monetary fine. The HLC has not yet received a response from the Ministry.
The HLC filed a criminal complaint against 11 members of the 549th VJ MtBr in May 2008 for the crime in Trnje.
In March 2013, the HLC published a Dossier on the actions of the VJ 549th MtBr, which describes the participation of this unit, including Gavrilović and Kozlina, in the crime committed in Trnje.