INDICTED part 9
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Part of the civilian population left their homes in Kosovo-Metohija fearing NATO’s air and missile strikes, and also fleeing the fighting between the VJ and “KLA” terrorists, since the terrorists had used them as human shields. Even those whose exodus was organized by the Albanian separatist activists were treated as friendly civilians by the VJ command, with an obligation to protect them in any way possible under very difficult and dangerous circumstances. Documents from VJ commands we have already cited clearly show concern for the safety of civilians. This practice continued even under the dire circumstances caused by the NATO aggression. Here are some indications of that.

A warning sent by the PrK command (classified #455-164 of April 18, 1999) to all unit commanders, says:

According to our information, there were several instances when the behavior of individuals during combat operations did not conform entirely to the Instructions for Conduct in Combat and the international laws of war... Certain commands and units did not pay sufficient attention to instances of looting and criminal behavior.

Based on the warning of the Third Army command (classified # 36-50-2, dated 17 April 1999) and for the purpose of completely respecting the provisions of international laws of war, and increased security in all units and commands... I order:

1. During combat operations, you will fully implement all provisions or international laws of war and the Instruction for behavior of VJ members in conducting operations in K-M (classified #100-2 of 2 March 1999), composed by the VJ General Staff, and which you received...;

3. All commands authorities will take effective measures for prevention of all forms of criminal conduct (looting, seizure of private property, etc), as regulated by Corps orders.

Inform all members of the PrK of adverse consequences of all forms of criminal behavior to the reputation and morale of the PrK. All spoils of war have to be treated in accordance with the existing orders and instructions.”

Another PrK order (classified #455-168, dated 19 April 1999) is even more explicit in regard to the causes of civilian movement in Kos-Met during the air and missile strikes by NATO. It says:

Since the NATO air strikes caused massive population movements in the Pristina Corps area of responsibility, I

ORDER:

1. All PrK units shall make an estimate of the current situation regarding the movement and camping of civilians. Whenever possible, protect the civilians and prevent any mass movement and spillover. If civilians end up in combat zones, or under fire by NATO aggressors and Albanian terrorist force, evacuate them to safety and protect them from hostile fire.

2. All units shall establish safe areas in their zones of responsibility: villages, homes and other buildings capable of temporarily sheltering civilians.

3. Reports on measures undertaken to protect civilians and proposals for optimal locations for sheltering refugees shall be sent to the PrK command by 1600 hrs on 20 April 1999.”

On April 21, 1999, Third Army command issued a reminder to all units (classified #38-8-2): “Rules of Engagement for Army Personnel” along with a booklet “Fundamentals of International Laws of War,” stressing that all operations should be conducted with absolute insistence on respecting the Geneva Convention and international laws and customs of war.

Concerned for the safety of civilians in Kosovo-Metohija, the military sought to return civilians to their homes as soon as opportunity arose. In that regard, the PrK actively addressed the issue of protecting the abandoned property in villages and cities from possible looting, destruction and theft. This is evidenced by the warning the PrK command issued on May 20, 1999 (classified #12-378):

Since the outbreak of hostilities, we have registered a large number of criminal activities manifested in various forms, in units directly engaged in combat operations as well as units deployed for the purpose of controlling territory and providing security for vital facilities....

Characteristic forms of criminal actions by individuals, and recently even small groups of VJ soldiers, are: abandoning the order of battle for the purpose of going into cities (Djakovica, Pec, Prizren) and procuring and consuming alcohol; theft of automobiles, appliances, tools and other valuable property; as a general rule, units largely ignore this sort of behavior. Violent excesses have been manifested through armed threats, opening fire on homes, physical and sexual harassment...

Despite the increased activity of military police and numerous criminal proceedings, the desired result in reducing or eliminating crime were not accomplished. Therefore, I order:

1. Unit COs shall take all the necessary measures to completely root out all illegal and harmful actions – and especially criminal behavior – by individuals or groups in their units.

2. Hold meetings at unit levels, for the purpose of preventing and rooting out the aforementioned behavior.

3. Immediately undertake appropriate legal measures and prosecute all perpetrators of criminal activities, in each unit’s area of responsibility ".

All the facts cited in war reports at all command levels of the Yugoslav Army, and their comparison to events in Kosovo-Metohija during 1998 and 1999, especially during the NATO aggression against the FRY (March 24 – June 10, 1999), prove in its entirety the thesis that it was NATO aggression that caused a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo-Metohija. The horrifying mass air strikes against cities and towns in this province inevitably caused mass exodus of civilians, who tried to flee from harm in all directions. Yugoslav Army commanders did everything to save the civilians from peril caused by the NATO aggression.

Paragraph 35 of the Indictment says: The unlawful deportation and forcible transfer of thousands of Kosovo Albanians from their homes in Kosovo involved well-planned and co-ordinated efforts by the leaders of the FRY and Serbia, and forces of the FRY and Serbia, all acting in concert. Actions similar in nature took place during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1991 and 1995. During those wars, Serbian military, paramilitary and police forces forcibly expelled and deported non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from areas under Serbian control utilising the same method of operations as have been used in Kosovo in 1999: heavy shelling and armed attacks on villages; widespread killings; destruction of non-Serbian residential areas and cultural and religious sites; and forced transfer and deportation of non-Serbian populations.

COMMENT: In its first sentence this Paragraph cites a legal paradox of “unlawful deportation.” The very definition of deportation includes three possibilities: 1. expulsion from a country of a foreign national, based on the decision of a court or another organ of authority; 2. internment of civilians from an occupied territory; and 3. forcible relocation of ethnic groups from their territory to mandatory residences. None of these has ever been applied in Kosovo-Metohija. We would like to dwell for a moment on the third case, in which occupation authorities deport civilians for the purpose of forced resettlement or internment. Forces of the FRY and Serbia defended Kosovo-Metohija as part of their own territory, against violence that had as its goal the secession of this province from Serbia and the FRY.

During their counter-terrorist operations, the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian MUP did temporarily relocate civilians from residential areas used by the terrorists as strongholds, but this was done to protect the civilians from danger, since their homes had become a theater of battle against the terrorists. As soon as the terrorists were destroyed and evicted, civilians were organized and returned by the VJ and the police into their residences. Examples of such behavior by the VJ have been cited in our response to Paragraph 34.

Since the Indictment cites “forcible transfer of thousands of Kosovo Albanians from their homes,” it should at least cite one name of a town or village from which these Albanians were forcibly transferred, or a place where they were forcibly transferred to. Since there are no such examples, the Indictment is based on a general, abstract allegation backed up with no evidence whatsoever.

Also, this Paragraph makes an analogy between the events in Kosovo-Metohija  and events in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1991-1995. Among other things, the Indictment claims that “During those wars, Serbian military, paramilitary and police forces forcibly expelled and deported non-Serbs …”

It is by this claim that the Hague Tribunal demonstrates its unprecedented bias and anti-Serb inclination.

In the interest of truth, we would like to remind the public of some events in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Let us start with Croatia. It is a tragic facet of historical fate that many more Serbs than Croats fought and died for the present-day borders of Croatia, claimed persistently by the current Croatian government. Having served Hitler faithfully as a quisling puppet-state until the very end of World War Two, Croatia ended the war as one of the victorious Allies much more because of its Serb population than its Croatian residents. That is why the ZAVNOH (Anti-Fascist Council of People’s Liberation of Croatia) had decided on its Topusko session in 1944 that Croats and Serbs were two equal peoples in this federal republic of the Second Yugoslavia. Immediately after the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) rose to power in 1990, it changed the Constitution, took away the status of Serbs as a constituent people in Croatia and reduced them to an ethnic minority. Additionally, all the surviving Ustasha [Nazi quisling] émigrés from the time of Pavelic returned to the country. Greater Croatian chauvinism rose to the level of euphoria, with the checkered flag and the prefix “Croatian” attached to everything. Such symbols and speech evoked strong memories of the WW2 Ustasha state and its genocide against the Serbs, and quite logically, alarmed the Serb population.

Anti-Serb propaganda in Croatia – not only against Yugoslavia and Serbia, but also against the Croatian Serbs – was causing rampant Serbophobia among the Croatian people, turning eventually into mass chauvinist hysteria. Six weeks after the establishment of Pavelic’s “Independent State of Croatia,” on May 25 1941, the Ustasha fuehrer issued a decree dismissing the Serb governor of Vukovar and appointed a German settler, attorney Jakob Eliker, in his place. Fifty years later, on July 25 1991, barely a month after the official secession of Croatia from Yugoslavia, the new Croatia fuehrer Franjo Tudjman issued a decree dismissing the democratically elected Vukovar town council and suspended its Serb chairman, Slavko Dokmanovic, appointing a Croat, Marina Vidic, in his place even though Croats were a minority in Vukovar.

Two and a half months before the new Croatian government was to secede, on March 24, 1991, the 204th Brigade of the National Guard Corps [Croatian militia] was formed under the command of  the new Ustasha., later to become a war criminal, Tomislav Mercep.

The decision to ethnically cleanse Vukovar of Serbs was made in February 1991 (4 months before Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia), by Mercep and members of the Croatian parliament Vladimir Seks, Ivan Vekic and Branimir Glavas. Their meeting focused in the impending actions of ethnic cleansing of Serbs, especially from this area. Everyone present agreed that the cleansing should be conducted in the following manner: dismissal of all Serbs from public service in the entire Vukovar municipality; intimidation of Serbs for the purpose of provoking their exodus from this municipality; and finally, physical liquidation of Serbs who did not succumb to previous measures. The agreement was implemented quickly.

Ten years later, testimonies of then-leaders of the Croatian secessionist movement answer the question of who did the expulsion for themselves. One of these leaders, Tudjman’s first Interior Minister Josip Boljkovac, on multiple occasions (interviews in December 1998 and May 2001) described in detail how the first bloodshed in Croatia (Borovo Selo near Vukovar, May 2, 1991.) was organized and perpetrated by the former émigré Gojko Susak (later secessionist Croatia’s Defense Minister) and Vice Vukojevic. According to Boljkovac, the bloodshed in Borovo Selo (12 dead, 31 wounded) “the Croatian side used as a sort of a detonator for initiating violent secession,” and the very essence of this violent act was the general expulsion of Serbs from Croatia.

Croats and Moslems were the first to expel Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well. The first act of the ethno-religious, civil war in that former Yugoslav republic was the public burning of the Serbian flag and the murder of Nikola Gardovic, father of the bride in a Serbian wedding procession in downtown Sarajevo, on March 1, 1992, committed by Moslem fundamentalists. Not only was the murderer not prosecuted, but the Moslems subsequently celebrated him as a hero.

A massacre of Serbs in the village of Sijekovac (near Bosanski Brod) occurred before the outset of the Bosnian war, on March 26, 1992. This crime was committed by the Croatian troops, in cooperation with local Moslem paramilitaries. They burst into this Serbian village, seized and killed all the menfolk (some 15 of them), looted all the homes and then torched the village.

Also before the war in Bosnia officially started (April 3-10, 1992) Croat and Moslem forces in Kupres committed a series of mass crimes against the local Serbs. Whomever they caught in Kupres was either killed or sent to camps. Ten Serbs were killed in the village of Donji Malovan, and 92 imprisoned in a camp. Nine more Serbs were killed in Kupres suburbs. From April 4 to April 7, 1992, 21 Serbs were killed throughout Kupres, especially in the suburb of Kratez, in their homes or while trying to flee the besieged town. In a forest behind Mt. Crni Vrh, three Serbs from the village of Rilic were executed. A similar fate befell the Serbs from the neighboring village of Zanagline, and five of them were shot in the nearby forest. The eldest among them, Trailo Spremo, was 83. The village was torched. Three more members of the Spremo family were killed in the village of Botin. Between April 5 and April 7, 1992, 173 Serb civilians were taken from their homes, led camps in Western Herzegovina where they suffered horrible torture. Some of these people were later transferred to the Lora camp in Split, Croatia.

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