Serb Officers Claim Ignorance of Kosovo Massacre

Serb Officers Claim Ignorance of Kosovo Massacre

Specijalni sud

Two former Yugoslav Army officers from the 549th Brigade told a court in Belgrade that they knew nothing about the attack on the village of Trnje in Kosovo in March 1999, when 27 Albanians were killed.

A former commander of the Yugoslav Army’s 549th Brigade, Stojan Konjikovac, told the Belgrade Special court on Wednesday that the platoon whose officers are charged with the attack on the village of Trnje was deployed away from the village and had no reason to enter it.

“Part of the forces were deployed northwest of Trnje. [Their task] was to hold the line and make no further progress,” Konjikovac told the court.

His account clashes with that of some previous witnesses, however, who said they saw people in military and police uniforms inside the village.

Konjikovac maintained he had no knowledge of the incident on March 25, 1999, when his subordinates, Pavle Gavrilovic and Ranko Kozlina, allegedly organised the attack.

Former chief of security for the 549th Brigade Miljan Velickovic, whose tasks included uncovering army war crimes, told the court he also knew nothing about the attack on Trnje.

Velickovic explained that after every operation, he and his officers interviewed members of participating units to find out if there was any misconduct.

However, since the brigade at the time numbered between 12,000 and 14,000 members, “it is possible that something happened and we did not find out about it,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of the attack on Trnje happening as described in the indictment, Velickovic said that it was “possible” but “very unlikely”.

“I can guarantee that the Command did not issue such an order to anyone,” he said.

According to the Humanitarian Law Centre NGO, the area of responsibility covered by the 549th Brigade saw more Kosovo Albanian civilian killings than any other brigade’s zone of operations – 2,174 out of more than 6,200.

Platoon commander Gavrilovic and his subordinate, Kozlina, are on trial for killing 27 people, including elderly people and a four-year-old boy in Trnje on March 25, 1999.

Gavrilovic is accused of ordering the attack, and of saying that “there should be no survivors”, according to the indictment.

As commander of a unit in the 549th Brigade, Gavrilovic is alleged to have split his men up into three groups, with Kozlin in one of these three, and ordered them to enter the village and ethnically “cleanse” the area.

Kozlina, together with three other soldiers, opened fire on 18 civilians including women and children, killing 16 of them, the indictment says. Other civilians were shot in several other houses in the village, it also says.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 7.