Belgrade Book Fair – a place to promote war criminals

Belgrade Book Fair – a place to promote war criminals

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At this year’s Book Fair, the „Defence“ Media Centre, publishing organ of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), will again present books whose author is Nebojša Pavković, and organise a panel devoted to the NATO Intervention. The panel speakers, beside the retired commanders of the Yugoslav Army (VJ)/Serbian Army (VS), Božidar Delić and Ljubiša Diković, will be Vladimir Lazarević and Vinko Pandurević, both convicted war criminals. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that by financing and promoting books and public forums where convicts for the most serious crimes are speakers, the MoD are openly treating with contempt the victims of those crimes, and demonstrating a clear adherence to the politics that led to numerous crimes in the former Yugoslavia, and denying the facts established before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

As currently scheduled, the book by Nebojša Pavković will be presented at the 64th Book Fair on October 25, 2019, at 2 p.m. During the conflict in Kosovo, Pavković was the Commander of the Third Army of the VJ. He is a convicted war criminal. The book, entitled “The smell of gunpowder and death at KiM 1998”, is published by the Ministry of Defence in the “Warrior” series, whose author is Nebojša Pavković. Namely, at the last year’s Book Fair, Pavković’s war diary, entitled “Seventy-Eight Days of the Third Army in the Arms of the Merciful Angel” was presented, as well as three other books – the testimonies of war commanders and narratives of certain events (“The Battle for Paštrik” and “The Battle at Košare”). The HLC recalls that Pavković was sentenced to 22 years in prison before the ICTY for deportations, forcible transfers, murders and persecutions as crimes against humanity, and for killings as violations of the laws and customs of war. But this was not discussed at the presentation of the war diaries. The HLC also notes that the MoD spent almost 4 million dinars on costs related to the edition “Warrior” series. By promoting war criminals before the public as heroes and spending budget funds for this purpose, the MoD continues its past policy, which led to crimes against Albanian civilians in Kosovo, and had thereby reinterpreted the facts established before the ICTY.

On the same day, starting at 6 p.m. at the fair stand, the MoD is organising a panel on “Experiences from Actions during the NATO Aggression – Remembered by the Book” whose moderator will be the head of the publishing department of the Serbian Armed Forces, Miroslav Toholj, former Minister of Information in the Government of Republika Srpska (from 1993 to 1995). The panellists will be: Vladimir Lazarević, Commander of the VJ Priština Corps, sentenced by the ICTY to 14 years in prison for deporting and forcibly displacing the Albanian population during the Kosovo conflict; Vinko Pandurević, Commander of the Zvornik Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, sentenced to 13 years in prison before the ICTY for helping and supporting crimes against humanity and violating the laws or customs of war; Ljubiša Diković, Commander of the 37th Motorised Brigade (37th mtbr) of the VJ and former Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces: and Božidar Delić, Commander of the 549th mtbr VJ. The HLC has recently presented evidence to the public about the role of Ljubiša Diković and Božidar Delić in crimes committed during the Kosovo conflict. Namely, the HLC presented facts and evidence in two Dossiers – Ljubiša Diković and Rudnica – regarding the involvement of the VJ 37th mtbr and Ljubiša Diković in crimes committed against Albanian civilians, as well as on the role of the VJ 549 mtbr whose commander was Božidar Delić. In the areas of responsibility of these two brigades in Kosovo, some 3,500 Albanian civilians were killed. The Serbian Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor has never investigated the HLC’s allegations of the involvement of Diković and Delić in these crimes.

In addition, the Media Defence Centre announces the publication of a book by Dragoljub Ojdanić, a former Chief of the VJ General Staff who was sentenced to 15 years in prison before the ICTY for helping and supporting the deportations and forcible transfers of the Albanian population from Kosovo.

The HLC calls on Serbian institutions to stop promoting and rehabilitating convicted war criminals and to pursue a policy that accepts established facts and takes into account the suffering of victims and their families.