Djordjevic Speaks of Personal Threats

Former Serbian police chief tells tribunal he feared for his life during the conflict.

Djordjevic Speaks of Personal Threats

Former Serbian police chief tells tribunal he feared for his life during the conflict.

Monday, 21 December, 2009
The former head of Serbia’s police told the Hague tribunal this week that he followed orders not to investigate mass burials of ethnic Albanians during the Kosovo war because he felt that his life was under threat from his superior minister.

Vlastimir Djordjevic, who was the acting head of Serbia’s public security department from June 1997 and became its formal head in January 1999, said that then interior minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic and unspecified “others” had threatened his life unless he followed these orders.

Djordjevic has been indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. The most recent amended indictment accuses Djordjevic, along with other senior officials, of having participated in, or having supported, the “forced deportation of approximately 800,000 Kosovo Albanian civilians”.

Speaking on the final day of his testimony, Djordjevic said that he had understood the orders of Stojiljkovic as being “a most serious threat in relation to my own life”.

In his testimony last week, Djordjevic admitted that he did not investigate reports that 86 ethnic Albanians, found dead in the river Danube in April 1999, had been buried in the Batajnica training base of the police’s Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, the SAJ, and that dozens of bodies, also thought to be of ethnic Albanians, had been buried in a mass grave close to the Peruac lake in the south-west of Serbia.

Djordjevic said in his testimony last week that he wanted to investigate these incidents, but that Stojiljkovic told him that he did not need to, and threatened him if he was to investigate the Batajnica reports.

Djordjevic said he had suspected Stojiljkovic of having committed some form of crime, but did not report him. He said that he regretted this, but part of the reason was because he felt that his life was under threat.

This week, the prosecution counsel, Chester Stamp, told the court that other witnesses had described Djordjevic as a highly professional official, who was fully abreast of all the details of his work.

Djordjevic said that he knew “every village, every hamlet, every path and road” in Kosovo, but that he was not responsible for the policemen operating there nor for making any major decisions about policing in the province. These would be made by Stojiljkovic, his superior at the Serbian ministry of internal affairs, MUP, he said.

Djordjevic also said that he had never been in control of the SAJ in Kosovo and that it was Stojiljkovic who had made the decisions about the unit which were then carried out by the staff. Djordjevic said that he had never given specific orders to police units engaged in anti-terrorist activities.

Judges asked Djordjevic about the investigation into the killings of 45 ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo village of Racak on January 15, 1999.

Serbian investigators visited the scene of this on January 18, and Djordjevic had said that he had left after he had shown them the town’s mosque, which held the bodies. He then went to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, before going on to Belgrade.

Djordjevic was asked why he had left the investigation in Racak at this point. Djordjevic replied that the surrounding area was held by his police, and that whatever the investigators wanted to investigate, they would be free to do so.

The court was then adjourned for the Christmas break.

Mike Kielty is an IWPR intern in London.
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