Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Witness "Ordered" to Cover Up Kosovo Killings
The tribunal this week heard from witnesses who described the discovery of a refrigerated truck in the Danube filled with dead Kosovo Albanian civilians and the attempts to conceal their killings.
Former police chief Caslav Golubovic said it was the ex-Serbian minister of the interior Vlajko Stojiljkovic and his deputy General Vlastimir Djordjevic who ordered the truck destroyed and the more than 80 bodies inside to be buried.
Golubovic was testifying at the trial of the so-called Kosovo Six - Nebojsa Pavkovic, Milan Milutinovic, Nikola Sainovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic, Sreten Lukic and Vladimir Lazarevic. They are former high-ranking Serbian officials accused of responsibility for war crimes in Kosovo during 1998 and 1999, including the killing of hundreds of Kosovo Albanians and the forcible transfer of an estimated 800,000.
Stojiljkovic was also charged but committed suicide in 2002. Djordjevic was indicted along with the others but is on the run and thought to be in Russia.
Golubovic told the judges that police in the Serbian town of Kladovo received reports of a truck in the river in nearby Tekija on April 6, 1999. Golubovic was police chief in Bor - about 100 kilometres away - at the time and was called in to investigate as Kladovo came under his jurisdiction.
He said he initially assumed the truck was part of a human smuggling operation.
Meetings followed with the chief of police in Kladovo, Bosko Radojkovic, an investigative judge from the municipality, the municipality prosecutor and the local chief of Serbian secret police. Golubovic said they all agreed to pull the truck from the water.
Radojkovic – also a prosecution witness this week – described what they found inside.
“Only one man was killed with automatic weapons and had hands tied with wire. We were counting bodies by the head. In one part was 53 bodies and three heads without bodies,” he said.
None of the victims were wearing Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, uniforms, and all appeared to be civilians from Suva Reka in Kosovo killed with knives or blunt objects, said Radojkovic.
Golubovic told the court that he informed Djordjevic about the discovery. “He replied to me that he needed to discuss [the situation] with Minister Stojiljkovic. Ten minutes later he called me and said to try pull out the truck and to bury the bodies in the city of Kladovo,” he said.
The truck was taken to the village of Petrovo Selo near Kladovo, where Radojkovic first burned then destroyed it with dynamite.
Golubovic again called Djordjevic to tell him that they had pulled out 30 bodies but only had 20 coffins and needed a pathologist to examine the bodies in Belgrade or Nis.
Djordjevic agreed and about 50 bodies were transferred to Belgrade that night in an operation code named Deep 2. They were then taken on to Batajnica near Belgrade, where they were buried in mass graves near the Serbian Special Anti-terrorist Unit, SAJ, base. The remaining bodies were buried in Kladovo.
The Batajnica graves were uncovered in June 2001, revealing the remains of more than 800 Kosovo Albanians civilians, including residents of Suva Reka.
The trial continues next week.
Aleksandar Roknic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.
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