Serbian General Wins Compensation for War Crimes Claims
Belgrade’s Humanitarian Law Centre has been ordered to compensate Serbian Army chief Ljubisa Dikovic for accusing him of involvement in war crimes in Kosovo and Bosnia.
Ljubisa Dikovic, the Serbian Army’s chief of staff. Photo: Beta.
The court ruled that the HLC must compensate Dikovic because of the “mental distress caused by the damage to his honour and reputation” by the allegations that were made in a report it published in 2012, according to the ruling which was made last month but not initially made public.The First Basic Court in Belgrade has ruled that the Humanitarian Law Centre must pay 550,000 dinars (around 4,480 euros) to Dikovic for damaging his reputation by saying that he was involved in war crimes in Kosovo and Bosnia, according to the ruling which was published by the HLC on Tuesday.
In the report and in interviews given by HLC founder Natasa Kandic to the media, Dikovic “is labelled as a perpetrator of a criminal act before any court decision has been made in that regard”, the ruling said.
The court also said that the aim of the HLC report was to “accuse [Dikovic] and not to inform the public”.
Dikovic filed a lawsuit against Kandic and the HLC, which she used to head, in February 2013, asking for a million dinars (around 9,300 euros) in compensation, but the court ruled that this was too much.
But the HLC accused the court of making legal errors and coming to “several contradictory and paradoxical conclusions” about the allegations presented in the report.
“On the one hand, the court took the stance that the accused, the HLC and Natasa Kandic, are supposed to prove the allegations about Dikovic’s involvement in war crimes. On the other hand, it refused to hear witnesses suggested by the accused, saying this issue has to be solved by the war crimes court,” the HLC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The HLC also said that the court refused to halt the proceedings while Serbia’s War Crimes Prosecution finished its preliminary investigation into allegations about Dikovic’s involvement in a war crime in the Kosovo village of Rrezalle/Rezala in 1999 – a probe that was launched after the HLC filed a complaint against Dikovic and three other soldiers.
The report was published shortly after Dikovic was named Serbian Army chief of staff in December 2011. It focuses on his alleged involvement in war crimes during the conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia, when he was the commander of the 37th Motorised Brigade and 16th Border Battalion of the Yugoslav Army.
According to the report, as the commander of 16th Border Battalion in 1994 and 1995 in western Serbia, Dikovic participated in the arrest of Bosniaks who came to Serbia trying to escape the Bosnian Serb Army. The captured Bosniaks were then handed over to Bosnian Serb forces and later executed, the report alleges.
During the case, Kandic claimed that the allegations against Dikovic were all based on credible evidence and numerous witnesses, including documents from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, media reports and material from the Serbian defence ministry website.
Dikovic however said the allegations were false and his legal team gave the court documents that it said showed he was not at the places where the HLC claims he was at the time.
But the HLC claimed that presiding judge Gordana Arandjelovic “provided [Dikovic] with excessive protection” and “unlawfully” prevented media from being present at a hearing during which Kandic was to cross-question the general.
The HLC published another report in January 2015, accusing Dikovic of commanding troops who attacked four Kosovo villages in 1999, when at least 69 civilians were killed.
The rights group’s report also claimed that Dikovic’s 37th Brigade was responsible for the subsequent removal of the bodies from the villages of Rezala, Staro Cikatovo, Donji Zabelj and Gladno Selo in an attempted cover-up.
The report was condemned by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who said the HLC’s claims were malicious and intended to destroy the military’s reputation.
Both Dikovic and the defence ministry strongly denied the allegations.
This article has been amended to clarify that the Humanitarian Law Centre, and not Natasa Kandic personally, was ordered by the court to pay compensation.