Probe against Serbian general is only the first, prosecutor says

14/08/2014

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution ordered an investigation of the military general Dragan Zivanovic, the first general suspected by the Serbian judiciary of command responsibility for war crimes in Kosovo.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 14/08/14

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Deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said that investigations of alleged war crimes by former Yugoslav army officers are important for Serbia. [AFP]

A war crimes investigation of Serbian General Dragan Zivanovic for atrocities carried out in Kosovo in 1999 marks the beginning of investigations against senior police and military officials who have not been tried in The Hague, an official said.

"It is difficult to say who would be prosecuted because it depends on the evidence. But such investigations are very important for Serbia because crimes cannot remain unanswered," deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric told SETimes.

The state's war crimes prosecutor ordered an investigation against Zivanovic, former commander of the 125th Motorised Brigade of the Yugoslav army, on suspicion that he failed to prevent war crimes against civilians in Cuska, Pavijan, Ljubenic and Zahac from April 1st 1999 to May 15th 1999.

The soldiers headed by Zivanovic allegedly killed at least 118 civilians. Twelve Serbian soldiers have been tried in Belgrade for atrocities in Pec region, and Zivanovic was the first senior officer against whom prosecutor ordered an investigation.

Kosovo officials welcomed the investigation but expressed some reservations.

"Serbia has not distanced yet from that policy that caused the war, the criminals are still appreciated and respected as heroes. The Serb state is not ready yet at least to ask for forgiveness for the victims it has caused during the war," Prenk Gjetaj, chairman of the Kosovo government Commission on Missing Persons, told SETimes.

Gjetaj however said that any step that intends to reveal the truth is welcomed and hailed in Kosovo.

"After 14 years, finally, we hope that those who have committed war crimes in Kosovo come in front of justice, be held accountable and take the deserved punishment. It's not only one general that should come out in front of justice, there are hundreds of generals, officers and individuals involved in the police and military structures that have committed crimes that amount to genocide," Gjetaj told SETimes.

Haki Kasumi, of the Co-ordinating Council of the Family Associations for the Missing Persons, told SETimes that the investigation will be welcomed by families that suffered criminal acts by the Serb military and police forces operating in Kosovo.

"But it should also be taken into account that Serb justice has lost the faith of the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo and that the majority of them are concerned that this proper action is delayed and could be only formal. General Zivanovic is only one of the many chains of the long chain of many Serb criminals who committed serious crimes against the Albanians, civilians that did nothing to provoke Serb armed forces," Kasumi said.

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But the investigation also has some critics, including Milan Ivanovic of Kosovska Mitrovica.

"General Zivanovic was only defending his people and his country during the NATO attacks in 1999. The ICTY has condemned the entire leadership of Serbia and none among the Albanians, although prior to 1999 and after that they committed many crimes against Serbs in Kosovo," Ivanovic told SETimes.

Correspondent Linda Karadaku in Pristina contributed to this report.

How do Serbia's war crimes prosecutions help reconcile the lingering conflict from the 1990s? Add your thoughts in the comment area below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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