INDICTED continued part 15

COMMENT: Every war, and especially armed rebellions with terrorist characteristics – and the terrorism of Albanian separatists in Kosovo-Metohija definitely represents the very pinnacle of this category – is a criminal affair. Chaos generated by such a war is even more conducive to occurrence and exacerbation of atrocities and criminal activities in general.

A decade-long campaign of organized destruction that the Albanian separatist movement in Kosovo-Metohija conducted against the Serbian state (1989-1999) had degraded the authority of Serbian government in the eyes of both Albanian and non-Albanian residents. This relatively long process of degradation and impotence of state authority was naturally accompanied by the citizens’ increased propensity to lay claim to the property of others. Widespread terrorist attacks of the “KLA,” the extensive counter-terrorist operations by the “forces of the FRY and Serbia” in 1998-99, and especially the NATO aggression, created chaos in Kosovo-Metohija unprecedented in modern Old World history. In parts of Kosovo-Metohija under “KLA” control (50% of the province at one time in 1998), towns and villages with non-Albanian population were targets of all sorts of criminal activities by “KLA” members. The persecution, plundering and atrocities by Albanian terrorists merit not a single word in the Indictment. Without them, however, it is impossible to fully comprehend the situation in Kosovo-Metohija during NATO’s aggression against the FRY – which fanned the flames of looting, murder and other forms of criminal violence. In such circumstances, the only organized force that paid any heed to principles and reputation, military and warrior ethic, as well as provisions of international laws and customs of war, was the Yugoslav Army.

Without any outside pressure, abiding by domestic and international laws of war, its warrior ethic, orders, instructions and other acts binding for all its members, the Yugoslav Army regulated all matters of dealing with civilian population, prisoners of war, casualties, protection of civilian property, etc. All VJ decisions were imperative in character, and all VJ members who violated laws and military orders were disciplined, prosecuted under criminal law and severely punished.

There are many specific examples of VJ commanders’ consistency in abiding by domestic and international laws of war and their orders. For example, the PrK report to the Third Army command about its counter-terrorist actions and defense from NATO aggression in 1998-99 contains a list of all military personnel (enlisted men, NCOs and officers) who acted in violation of laws and orders and were subsequently punished by the courts. This report cites 172 names of persons who were held responsible for their actions. This percentage of convictions seems high, but if one takes into account that the PrK forces in Kosovo-Metohija at the time numbered about 160,000 men, then it follows that only one in every thousand VJ members committed some sort of crime. Realistically, this is a negligible percentage. It is not negligible that by far most of the military personnel charged and convicted for violations were Kosovo-Metohija residents – more than two thirds. This indicates that VJ personnel from this province often resorted to some sort of vigilantism because of murdered family members and other suffering at the hand of Albanian terrorists.

Courts-martial strictly punished all violators of international laws and customs of war. Their harshest convictions were reserved for those who committed war crimes against the civilian population, under Article 142 of the FRY Penal Code. For example, Lt. Col. S.S. and five privates, who murdered six ethnic Albanians in the village of Gornja Klina between April 10 and April 15 1999, were arrested, tried and sentenced as soon as the crime was uncovered.

Those who engaged in rape, plunder and extortion were prosecuted as well. For example, privates T. M, T. M, and M.D, were arrested on April 17, 1999, for “going of their own will into the village of Crmljane, where they entered a courtyard between several houses where several families of ethnic Albanians were hiding from NATO air strikes; these three defendants seized two young women and took them away to one of the rooms and forced sexual acts on them...” All three privates were severely punished.

Sergeant P.I. and private D.J.. I were charged with robbery and convicted under Article 168, paragraph I of the Serbian Penal Code, stemming from Article 22 of the FRY Penal Code, because: “on 16 April  1999, between 2300 and 2400 hours, on the local road between Vlasnje and Zur, intend on illegally obtaining property, threatened with weapons the lives of Albanian refugees moving down that road and extorted from them 180 German Marks, 475 Yugoslav dinars, one golden coin on a chain, 6 rings, a set of earrings, a brooch and a bracelet (defendant Sgt. P.I.); 3,245 German Marks, 3,150 dinars, one necklace, 6 rings and a set of earrings (defendant Pvt. Dj.I.).” All these items were found on the defendants at the time of their arrest.

Also exemplary is the case against professional soldier Pvt. J.B., charged with first-degree robbery under Article 166, Para. 1. Section 5 of the Serbian Penal Code, because “between the end of March and 21 May 1999, during his unit’s deployment in the vicinity of Glavnik village near Podujevo, he on multiple occasions engaged in illegally taking property from abandoned houses belonging to unidentified citizens with the intention of illicit personal enrichment, using the misfortune of persons who were forced to flee their homes by NATO air strikes...”

As these examples show, all known perpetrators of crimes were prosecuted – those who committed war crimes against civilians, rape and other forms of violence, as well as those who plundered with the intent of illicit personal enrichment.

Paragraph 94 of the Indictment says: “Throughout Kosovo, the forces of the FRY and Serbia have engaged in a systematic campaign of destruction of property owned by Kosovo Albanian civilians. This has been accomplished through the widespread shelling of towns and villages; the burning of homes, farms, and businesses; and the destruction of personal property. As a result of these orchestrated actions, villages, towns, and entire regions have been made uninhabitable for Kosovo Albanians.”

Paragraph 95 of the Indictment says: “Throughout Kosovo, the forces of the FRY and Serbia have harassed, humiliated, and degraded Kosovo Albanian civilians through physical and verbal abuse. Policemen, soldiers, and military officers have persistently subjected Kosovo Albanians to insults, racial slurs, degrading acts, beatings, and other forms of physical mistreatment based on their racial, religious, and political identification.”

Paragraph 96 of the Indictment says: “Throughout Kosovo, the forces of the FRY and Serbia have systematically seized and destroyed the personal identity documents and licenses of vehicles belonging to Kosovo Albanian civilians. As Kosovo Albanians have been forced from their homes and directed towards Kosovo’s borders, they have been subjected to demands to surrender identity documents at selected points en route to border crossings and at border crossings into Albania and Macedonia. These actions have been undertaken in order to erase any record of the deported Kosovo Albanians’ presence in Kosovo and to deny them the right to return to their homes.

COMMENT: These three paragraphs of the Indictment rehash the oft-repeated general accusations against “forces of the FRY and Serbia,” which allegedly “engaged in a systematic campaign of destruction of property owned by Kosovo Albanian civilians” through “widespread shelling of towns and villages,” and persistently subjected Kosovo Albanians to insults, racial slurs...” etc.

Our detailed refutation of Paragraph 34 gave plenty of arguments to dismiss the claim of “widespread shelling of towns and villages” in Kosovo-Metohija, not only in form of appropriate orders regulating distance engagements (forbidding the use of artillery and high-caliber tank guns), but also by citing very specific orders specifying the procedures for eliminating terrorist groups when they use residential areas as strong points and fortifications. It would be superfluous to repeat this evidence.

The only new and somewhat more specific allegation is mentioned in Paragraph 96, relating to the alleged systematic seizure and destruction of “personal identity documents” and licenses of motor vehicles, so as to supposedly “erase any record of the deported Kosovo Albanians’ presence in Kosovo and to deny them the right to return to their homes.”

This allegation, however, does not take several factors into consideration, thus leaving the uninformed in belief that the “forces of the FRY and Serbian” indeed engaged in systematic, planned expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo-Metohija. However, this is what the Indictment does not mention: during a decade that the Albanian separatists boycotted the Serbian state in Kosovo-Metohija, Serbian Interior Ministry – in charge of issuing personal identity documents to citizens – could not perform this duty properly. A sharp increase in the number of Albanians in Kosovo-Metohija since 1974 (when the new SFRY Constitution came into force) was not just a consequence of the well-known and undisputed demographic boom among the Kosovo Albanians, but also of uncontrolled and incessant illegal immigration of Albanian citizens and their settlement in Kosovo-Metohija. Receptive local authorities and corrupt bureaucracies, Albanian or Serb, provided these illegal immigrants with identity documents and employment. This influx of immigrants from Albanian peaked in the latter half of the 1990s, when the “KLA” was being formed and men and weapons crossed into Kosovo-Metohija unchecked.

Any country would use the situation caused by the NATO aggression to rid itself of illegal immigrants through inspection of identity documents. Confiscation of identity documents, however, is not the way to achieve such a goal. Given the centralized computer register of all citizens, it is always possible to quickly replace the missing identity papers of other documents within a very short time frame, regardless of how they were lost. Individual cases where identity papers were confiscated cannot be excluded, but a systematic campaign to that purpose can be, since it would be irrational.

We need to add one more thing. In the proposal for self-government in Kosovo-Metohija offered by the  Yugoslav delegation at Rambouillet, Article II (confidence-building measures) states: “signatory parties shall respect the fact that all refugees and displaced persons shall have the right to return to their homes. The appropriate authorities will take all the necessary measures to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons, including the issuing of all the necessary identity documents, provided that the refugees are citizens of the FRY.”

Previous paragraphs of the Indictment also make allegations that the “forces of the FRY and Serbia” expelled Kosovo Albanians from their homes, directing them towards the borders of Kosovo with Albania and Macedonia – i.e. “deporting” them, as this attempt of the civilian population to escape the NATO air and missile strikes was maliciously reinterpreted by the Indictment. We refuted this insinuation in our detailed response to Paragraph 34, where we showed the care of PrK commanders and units for the civilian population. This care is here misconstrued as planned deportations, during which the “seizure” of identity documents was supposed to prevent the return of these people to their homes. Of course, this fails to explain the allegation from Paragraph 94 about the “burning of homes, farms, and businesses” that was supposed to ensure future Serb control of… what? Scorched earth? But since this is not the only contradiction in the Indictment, we deem it unworthy of a response.

Paragraph 97 of the Indictment says: Beginning on or about 1 January 1999 and continuing until the date of this indictment, the forces of the FRY and Serbia, acting at the direction, with the encouragement, or with the support of Slobodan MILOSEVIC, Milan MILUTINOVIC, Nikola SAINOVIC, Dragoljub OJDANIC, and Vlajko STOJILJKOVIC have perpetrated the actions set forth in paragraphs 92 through 96, which have resulted in the forced deportation of approximately 740,000 Kosovo Albanian civilians. These actions have been undertaken in all areas of Kosovo, and these means and methods were used throughout the province, including the following municipalities:

a. Dakovica/Gjakovė : On or about 2 April 1999, forces of the FRY and Serbia began forcing residents of the town of Dakovica/Gjakovė to leave. Forces of the FRY and Serbia spread out through the town and went house to house ordering Kosovo Albanians from their homes. In some instances, people were killed, and most persons were threatened with death. Many of the houses and shops belonging to Kosovo Albanians were set on fire, while those belonging to Serbs were protected. During the period from 2 to 4 April 1999, thousands of Kosovo Albanians living in Dakovica/Gjakovė and neighbouring villages joined a large convoy, either on foot or driving in cars, trucks and tractors, and moved to the border with Albania. Forces of the FRY and Serbia directed those fleeing along pre-arranged routes, and at police checkpoints along the way most Kosovo Albanians had their identification papers and license plates seized. In some instances, Yugoslav army trucks were used to transport persons to the border with Albania…”

COMMENT: This Paragraph brings out in the open the goals of the Indictment. Those who defended their country and their people were to be cast as criminals, while the aggressors (NATO and its followers) would become victims. Such a conclusion is backed fully by the allegations in this Paragraph. Namely, the indicted are being charged with events in Kosovo-Metohija from January to May 22, 1999, when the Indictment was issued. Yet in the time between January and March 24 (when NATO began its aggression against the FRY), the indicted are being charged only with the “Racak incident.” Medical experts have proven and publicly said to the entire world that the “Racak incident” was staged by U.S. envoy William Walker, as a pretext for the NATO attack.

Events in Kosovo-Metohija that allegedly happened after the NATO aggression began – casualties, refugees, destruction, etc. are blamed on the defendants in order to deflect responsibility from the real criminals who caused them. The appearance of refugee columns and the mass exodus from Kosovo-Metohija were caused by NATO’s terrifying air strikes. Its targets were somewhat specific in the first few days, becoming increasingly random thereafter, as time passed. Another cause for refugee columns was the synchronized assault of NATO and the “KLA” on Kosovo-Metohija. Columns of “expelled” Albanians appeared some 5-7 days after the bombing began. When the aggressors realized that the FRY would not capitulate within 3-5 days, and that it planned a prolonged defense, they organized – with “KLA” assistance – a mass exodus of civilians so they could justify their aggression by so-called humanitarian concerns.

Let us address this Paragraph now, one issue at a time, and describe what really happened, how and why:

Between the start of NATO aggression and April 2, the date cited in the Indictment as the beginning of alleged mass expulsion of civilians from Djakovica, is a period of 7-8 days. In that time frame, tons of missiles and bombs fell on this city. We mentioned already that, after Pristina and Prizren, Djakovica was third most frequent target of air and missile strikes (265). In addition to VJ barracks and the Interior Ministry building, other targets in Djakovica were the Efendi bridge on Erevik, the highway bridge on the Ribnica, the Djakovica-Klina highway bridge over the Beli Drimu, the highway bridge in Panosevac, as well as industrial facilities, farms, power lines, etc. According to incomplete information, casualties of air and missile strikes amounted to some 100 dead and 75 injured civilians. In a town the size of Djakovica (pop. 35,000), this intensity of air strikes inevitably caused the citizens to flee.

Strategically speaking, Djakovica is the heart of Metohija and sits astride the main highway from Albania into Kosovo. Given the estimated likelihood of land invasion of terrorists from Albania (armed and trained in camps around (Tropoje and Kukes), parts of the Albanian military and NATO special forces stationed in the region, it is logical that the “forces of the FRY and Serbia” deployed along the border and set up in-depth defenses. Deployment of mobilized reserves to the prepared defense positions in this area coincided with the appearance of refugee columns from Djakovica and the surrounding areas, which intended to cross into Albania. Given the intensity of incessant air strikes, had this movement not been regulated by the VJ, especially along a barely passable road over a difficult border, chaos would have ensued. Channeling the refugees “along pre-arranged routes” aimed to prevent civilian casualties in minefields and prevent interference with the deployment of VJ reserves along the prepared defensive positions. Anything else is malicious insinuation.

Also, the fact that tens of thousands of Djakovica Albanians greeted the first KFOR units as they entered  the town (Italian unit “Garibaldi”, which also taped the event) clearly testifies that “Kosovo Albanians” were not expelled from Djakovica.

“b. Gnjilane/Gjilan: Forces of the FRY and Serbia entered the town of Prilepnica/Pėrlepnicė on or about 6 April 1999, and ordered residents to leave saying that the town would be mined the next day. The townspeople left and tried to go to another village but were turned back by police. On 13 April 1999, residents of Prilepnica/Pėrlepnicė were again informed that the town had to be evacuated by the following day. The next morning, the Kosovo Albanian residents left in a convoy of approximately 500 vehicles and headed to the Macedonian border. Shortly after the residents left, the houses in Prilepnica/Pėrlepnicė were set on fire. Kosovo Albanians in other villages in Gnjilane/Gjilan municipality were also forced from their homes, and were made to join another convoy to the Macedonian border. Along the way, some men were taken from the convoy and killed along the road. When the Kosovo Albanians reached the border, their identification papers were confiscated.”

Refugees” from Gnjilane and the surrounding area, promptly formed on April 6 according to plan, are a typical example of synchronized actions by NATO and the “KLA” commanders in Kosovo-Metohija. When NATO leaders became aware that the capitulation of the VJ and the FRY, expected within 3-5 days after the air and missile strikes commenced, was not going to happen, and that the people of the FRY were increasingly determined to defend their country, they decided to stage a “humanitarian disaster” of “hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians” for their public and the world, in order to justify the extension of their aggression against military and civilian targets throughout the FRY.

Earlier in the text, we proved that these “refugee columns” were well prepared (with well-fueled tractor-trailers, covered wagons and trucks, 2-3 weeks’ worth of food, first-aid kits, etc.), for the purpose of justifying the criminal air strike campaign codenamed “Merciful Angel” through propaganda presentations. Yugoslav Army SigInt (signal intelligence) units were able to intercept messages between NATO and “KLA” commanders about the forming and timing of these “refugee” convoys.

“c. Kosovska Mitrovica/Mitrovicė : In late March 1999, forces of the FRY and Serbia began moving systematically through the town of Kosovska Mitrovica/Mitrovicė . They entered the homes of Kosovo Albanians and ordered the residents to leave their houses at once and to go to the bus station. Some houses were set on fire forcing the residents to flee to other parts of the town. Over a two week period the forces of the FRY and Serbia continued to expel the Kosovo Albanian residents of the town. During this period, properties belonging to Kosovo Albanians were destroyed and Kosovo Albanians were robbed of money, vehicles, and other valuables. A similar pattern was repeated in other villages in the Kosovska Mitrovica/Mitrovicė municipality, where Kosovo Albanians were forced from their homes, followed by the destruction of their villages by forces of the FRY and Serbia. The Kosovo Albanian residents of the municipality were forced to join convoys going to the Albanian border. En route to the border, Serb soldiers, policemen, and military officers robbed them of valuables and seized their identity documents.”

There were no VJ units in Kosovska Mitrovica during the fist few days of NATO aggression against the FRY. The brigade that garrisoned this city was at the time engaged in counter-terrorist operations in Drenica. Only some MUP forces were deployed in K. Mitrovica, to maintain order. During the first 5-8 of the aggression, numerous columns of troops from the north came through K. Mitrovica on their way further into Kosovo, down the Raska road. These columns passed through K. Mitrovica quickly and in good order, intent on urgent deployment to defense positions along the border. There was also a threat of NATO air strikes, which, as in Djakovica, were intense (Kosovska Mitrovica was ranked 9th in the number of air and missile attacks – 116). Unlike other towns in Kosovo-Metohija, Kosovska Mitrovica  was targeted by NATO because of a large arms and ammunitions depot at Bair Hill, just above the town.  NATO aircraft attacked the depot on April 5 and 6. Explosions of leftover ammunition went on for days, which – in addition to air attacks against other targets – was most responsible for mass exodus of civilians. Columns of refugee heading towards Albania certainly had to be directed along regulated routes; first, so they would not enter minefields; second, so they would not interfere with defensive positions of the VJ along the border and third, so they would not hamper troop movements and reinforcements.

“d. Orahovac/Rahovec: On the morning of 25 March 1999, forces of the FRY and Serbia surrounded the village of Celine with tanks and armoured vehicles. After shelling the village, troops entered the village and systematically looted and pillaged everything of value from the houses. Most of the Kosovo Albanian villagers had fled to a nearby forest before the army and police arrived. On 28 March, a number of Serb police forced the thousands of people hiding in the forest to come out. After marching the civilians to a nearby village, the men were separated from the women and were beaten, robbed, and had all of their identity documents taken from them. The men were then marched to Prizren and eventually forced to go to the Albanian border.

On 25 March 1999, a large group of Kosovo Albanians went to a mountain near the village of [Nagavac] Nagafc, also in Orahovac/Rahovec municipality, seeking safety from attacks on nearby villages. Forces of the FRY and Serbia surrounded them and on the following day, ordered the 8,000 people who had sought shelter on the mountain to leave. The Kosovo Albanians were forced to go to a nearby school and then they were forcibly dispersed into nearby villages. After three or four days, the forces of the FRY and Serbia entered the villages, went house to house and ordered people out. Eventually, they were forced back into houses and told not to leave. Those who could not fit inside the houses were forced to stay in cars and tractors parked nearby. On 2 April 1999, the forces of the FRY and Serbia started shelling the villages, killing a number of people who had been sleeping in tractors and cars. Those who survived headed for the Albanian border. As they passed through other Kosovo Albanian villages, which had been destroyed, they were taunted by Serb soldiers. When the villagers arrived at the border, all their identification papers were taken from them.”

Everything we said in responding to Paragraph 34 is applicable here. Orahovac was inside the “KLA” zone of operation Pastrik, composed of seven terrorist brigades.

In the cited period (March 25 - April 2, 1999), fierce battles raged in this area between VJ forces and the “KLA.” Quite normally, civilians fled areas of fighting during combat operations. Most of the time, VJ units called for the civilians, held as “human shields” by “KLA” terrorists is fortified strongholds, to leave the se strongholds and fortified residential areas, in order to avoid civilian casualties. Having in mind that NATO’s aggression was taking place at the time, the VJ acted intensively to destroy the terrorist formations of the “KLA” correctly assessing that they represented the first echelon of NATO’s ground invasion. That is why the VJ used both artillery and tanks. Even so, the Army adhered to previously issued orders not to open fire on residential areas, but solely against firing positions and fortifications.

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