Trial of Dušan Lončar, JNA commander accused of the crime in Lovas, begins
Trial of Dušan Lončar, former commander of the Second Proletarian Elite Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav People’s Army (2nd PEMBR), accused of the war crime against civilian population committed on 10 October 1991 in Lovas (the Republic of Croatia), has begun before the War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade.
The indictment of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) charges the accused of issuing an order to attack the village of Lovas and its population in the capacity of the JNA’s 2nd PEMBR commander with the rank of colonel, on 9 October 1991. The order instructed that the main forces should block the village and target its facilities with artillery, while the ancillary forces should “cleanse the village of the ZNG and MoI members, as well as of hostile inhabitants “. The following day, 10 October 1991, the forces under Dušan Lončar’s command, acting upon his order, attacked the village and killed “at least 7 civilians“and burnt down several residential buildings.
Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint to the OWCP against Dušan Lončar back in 2016, for his order to attack Lovas, stating that one civilian was killed and another one wounded during the shelling, whilst 21 more civilians were killed during the attack.
The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, after HLC’s several interventions, initiated investigation as late as in 2021, to issue an indictment against Lončar in 2022, downsizing the number of victims – he is charged with murder of seven civilians.
Before the War Crimes Department of Belgrade’s Higher Court, in the period from 2008 to 2019, proceedings were conducted against medium-ranked and low-ranked members of the units subordinated to the accused Lončar, for the war crimes perpetrated during the attack against the village of Lovas after its siege. Throughout the proceeding, the writs of the case included Dušan Lončar’s order, which the court’s military expert assessed as contrary to the norms of international humanitarian law, but notwithstanding, the OWCP did not prosecute the accused, having heard him as a witness in the proceeding instead.
Presenting his defence, Dušan Lončar stated that he did not issue an order to attack Lovas, that he did not recognise the signature on that document as his own, that no soldier participated in the attack, but that the attack was executed by a unit commanded by a certain Tito, consisting of people from the neighbouring villages and members of the “Dušan Silni“ (“Dušan the Mighty”) volunteers unit. Also, he claimed that on 9 October 1991, the day before the attack on Lovas, he had left to Valjevo, and when he returned around 2pm on the following day, he learnt that Lovas had been conquered. He admitted, however, that on 10 October 1991 his unit opened artillery fire on Lovas, claiming that another JNA officer had ordered it though, and that nobody was killed by that shelling and no house was damaged.