Kosovo Trial Hears Batajnica Evidence

Prosecution witness suggests exhumed bodies were Albanians killed in Kosovo.

Kosovo Trial Hears Batajnica Evidence

Prosecution witness suggests exhumed bodies were Albanians killed in Kosovo.

Saturday, 21 October, 2006

Judges presiding over the case against six senior Serbian military and civilian officials heard this week about the exhumation of Kosovo Albanians from five mass graves in Batajnica near Belgrade in 2001.

According to the prosecutors, personal documents also found in the graves suggest there is a direct link between the crimes listed in the indictment and the six accused.

A total of 1,100 bodies of ethnic Albanians allegedly killed by Serb forces in Kosovo in 1999 were found in these graves.

In 2001, William Futon, a former detective from Northern Ireland, was sent to the Special Police Anti-Terrorist Unit, SAJ, in Batajnica as an observer form the tribunal’s Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, to oversee the excavation of mass graves found in that location.

He told the court it was clear that a number of personal documents found in these graves belonged to Albanians killed in Kosovo in spring 1999, whose bodies were then transported and buried in Serbia in an attempt to cover the traces of the crimes.

By way of example, he mentioned personal documents belonging to nine members of the Berisha family from the town of Suva Reka in Kosovo, which were found in the Batajnica mass graves.

The indictment against former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic, former deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia Nikola Sainovic, former Yugoslav army, VJ, chief of staff Dragoljub Ojdanic, and police and VJ officials Sreten Lukic, Nebojsa Pavkovic and Vladimir Lazarevic includes a section on the crimes allegedly committed by forces under their command in Suva Reka.

It states that on the morning of March 25, 1999, Serb forces surrounded the town of Suva Reka, “threatening Kosovo Albanian residents and removing many of the people from their homes at gunpoint”.

According to the prosecutors, in the shooting which ensued some members of the Berisa family were killed. The following morning, those who survived - including women, elderly people and children - were taken by Serb forces to a local café, where they were subsequently executed.

At least 40 members of the Berisa family were killed in this massacre.

Eight Serbian high-ranking police officers are currently on trial in Belgrade for their alleged role in this crime. The trial, at the Belgrade District Court, started on October 3 this year. All of the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Belgrade prosecutors claim that among the bodies exhumed from the Batajnica mass graves, six belonged to children, aged one to four. One pregnant women and a 100-year-old woman were also among the victims.

This week, Fulton also testified about other mass graves located throughout Serbia. He mentioned Lake Perucac and Petrovo Selo, where around 120 bodies of Albanians were found.

Fulton’s testimony was relatively short, because Serbian forensic experts – who led the Serbian pathologist teams conducting the exhumations in Serbia – will give more detailed evidence on their findings in the following days.

The trial continues next week.

Aleksandar Roknic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

Serbia, Kosovo
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