Macedonian ex-Interior Minister Charged

Ljube Boskoski accused of command responsibility for a police unit alleged to have killed and abused Albanians in the 2001 conflict.

Macedonian ex-Interior Minister Charged

Ljube Boskoski accused of command responsibility for a police unit alleged to have killed and abused Albanians in the 2001 conflict.

Friday, 18 November, 2005

A newly-revealed indictment against former Macedonian interior minister Ljube Boskoski focuses the Hague tribunal’s attention for the first time on the short-lived civil war in Macedonia in 2001, which has so far failed to feature at the court.


In an indictment unveiled on March 15, Hague prosecutors charged Boskoski with responsibility for seven murders and the beating of detained civilians, both during and after an attack by Macedonian police on the ethnic Albanian village of Ljuboten.


The document was the last to be made public out of a final package of six indictments submitted by chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in December 2004, in time for an end-of-year deadline for submitting new charge sheets.


The indictment also names police officer Johan Tarculovski, said to have commanded the police unit that carried out the assault.


The two are each charged with three counts of violations of the laws and customs of war, relating to the crimes of murder, cruel treatment and wanton destruction of homes in the village.


Prosecutors allege that the assault on Ljuboten began on August 12, just a day before the signing of the Ohrid peace accords that brought an end to the civil war in Macedonia.


The Ljuboten incident followed an ambush by Albanian rebels on August 10 some five kilometres away, which left eight government soldiers dead.


Macedonian security forces subsequently used small arms, mortars and rockets to attack the village before the final assault on August 12.


That morning, prosecutors say, members of Tarculovski’s police unit forced their way into the yard of 33-year-old ethnic Albanian Rami Jusufi. When his mother woke him to tell him what was happening Jusufi came to the front door of the house in his pyjamas, only to be shot in the stomach at close range by a policeman. He died two hours later.


According to the indictment, some 100 policemen then continued to work their way through the village, torching 14 homes as they went.


Prosecutors say the only resistance came from 15 armed Albanians, at most, in the village.


When police came across two houses close together in which men, women and children were hiding from the assault, the indictment says they ordered the men out and forced 13 of them to lie down on the ground before beating them with rifle butts and wooden sticks. They are said to have shot one man through the hand and carved a cross on another’s back with a knife.


One young man who tried to escape was shot dead, and another elderly man was killed after being ordered to walk away. A third man was so badly beaten, both at that point and later on, that he died the next day from his injuries.


Prosecutors say the slaughter continued at another house in the village, where five unarmed men had taken refuge. Police opened fire on the house, they allege, before using petrol to torch it. And as the men who had been inside tried to escape towards a nearby mountain, three were shot dead and a fourth injured.


Besides the 13 people captured and beaten in Ljuboten itself, it is alleged that in the afternoon, police at a checkpoint near the village picked a further 90 unarmed men out of a column of hundreds of residents who had begun fleeing the area.


According to the indictment, after these men had been subjected to beatings at the checkpoint, they were then transferred in groups to various police stations, where many underwent further abuse over a three day period with metal pipes, baseball bats, cables, rifle butts and other weapons.


On August 14, 22 of them were tried in a court Skopje. Prosecutors say most of the accused men were beaten in the hallways and corridors of the court building itself by police, prison guards and civilian passers-by. Some were hit with truncheons or burnt with cigarettes.


The majority of some 14 badly injured detainees who ended up in Skopje city hospital are also alleged to have been beaten there by police and even hospital personnel.


Tarculovski is charged with personal responsibility for the attack as commander of the unit. As head of the interior ministry, Boskoski (whose name has often been rendered incorrectly as Boskovski) was in charge of the Macedonian police force at the time, is charged only on grounds of his command responsibility.


Prosecutors say he knew about preparations for the attack on Ljuboten before the assault took place.


And afterwards, they add, he became fully aware of the crimes that had been committed via police and newspaper reports, conversations with people who took part, meetings with international representatives and journalists, and his own viewing on the afternoon of August 12 of mistreated detainees and damage to property near the village.


But despite all this, they say, he still failed to order any proper investigation into what happened in Ljuboten, or to punish anyone involved.


The final six indictments were filed to a deadline set as part of plans to finish all trials in The Hague in 2008 and wind down the tribunal’s work completely by the end of 2010.


It remains unclear whether the United Nations court might still be in possession of further sealed indictments submitted prior to the final batch.


Michael Farquhar is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.


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