Sunday, January 21, 2007

“Top echelons knew about Kosovo crimes”

21 January 2007 | 11:51 | Source: B92, SENSE

THE HAGUE -- Aleksandar Vasiljević listed the crimes against Albanians that the Serbian authorities allegedly knew about in 1999.

Aleksandar Vasiljević, a major general and former head of Serbian counter-intelligence (KOS) told the Hague court as he testified in the Kosovo Six trial last week that the army and the police blamed each other, and how Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević dealt with the killings of Albanian civilians.

Vasiljević downplayed the responsibility of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) for the crimes against Kosovo Albanians, just as he had done four years ago at the trial of Slobodan Milošević. He did admit, however, that by mid-May 1999, the top Serbian military and political structures had known about them.

In April 1999, Vasiljević re-joined the army, agreeing to become the deputy head of the KOS. He had retired seven years earlier after his dismissal as KOS chief.

In the first few months after the war broke out the military intelligence service had no information about the crimes in Kosovo, he claims. He received the first reports of the killings, looting and rapes of ethnic Albanians on May 8.

Among the incidents he was informed about was the killing of 12 Albanian civilians in Podujevo by the Scorpions (Škorpioni), who were under the command of the Special Antiterrorist Units in the Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP).

Vasiljević also testified that he had learned that the police units known as the Operations and Pursuit Groups had expelled Albanians from Kosovska Mitrovica..

He said he reported this to general. General Ojdanić made a telephone call to the FRY president Slobodan Milošević, in Vasiljević’s presence. He told Milošević that "a lot of things are done" in Kosovo; what he meant was that crimes were committed against Albanians.

Vasiljević testified that on May 16, Dragoljub Ojdanić, Chief of VJ General Staff, and himself, attended a meeting with General Nebojša Pavković who said that the Interior Ministry Headquarters in Priština, under the command of General Sreten Lukić, "was blaming" the army for the killing of 800 Kosovo Albanians.

Pavković, the witness testified, told him and Ojdanić that he had carried out an internal military investigation. He established that there were 326 bodies of Albanians in the areas under the police control and 271 bodies in the areas controlled by the military.

High-ranking military officials reported everything they knew to Slobodan Milošević on May 17 at the meeting attended by generals Ojdanić and Pavković, Geza Farkas, head of military intelligence service, Rade Marković, head of police intelligence section, and Nikola Šainović, Milošević's man in charge of Kosovo.

Vasiljević recorded Milošević's response to the crimes in Podujevo committed by the Scorpions in his notebook, admitted into evidence by the court. Milošević allegedly referred to the Scorpions commander, Slobodan Medić, by his nickname Boca, saying he should be removed from the post.

He ordered Rade Marković to deal with the situation together with Vlajko Stojiljković, police minister, and Vlastimir Đordjević, RJB head. “No heads will roll,” Milošević reportedly added, as a consequence of the crimes that were committed.

Vasiljević mentioned two other units that were causing problems, apart from the Scorpions: the Special Operations Unit (JSO) and Arkan’s Tigers. Those units fought in Kosovo under the command of the Interior Ministry. All three units are said to have conscripted criminals who had previously committed a number of crimes in Croatia and Bosnia.

General Vasiljević's evidence continues on Monday.

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