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War Trials

Former Serb paramilitary unit goes on trial accused of Albanian slaughter

By AKIkronos

December 20, 2010

BELGRADE –  (AKI) Nine former members of a Serbian paramilitary unit went on trial in a special Belgrade court on Monday for allegedly killing at least 44 Albanian civilians during the Kosovo war in May 1999.

The nine members of a paramilitary group called Sakali (Jackals), have been charged with rounding up civilians during military operation in the village of Cuska in western Kosovo on 14 May 1999, taking away their valuables, burning houses and killing men.

They were arrested in March this year and a total of 26 people have been indicted, but seventeen have been on the run and an international warrant for their arrest was issued by Serbian authorities.

The first accused, Toplica Miladinovic, who was the commander of local Serb territorial defense, denied the charges in the court, saying he never heard of Jackals and didn’t know its members.

According to the indictment, Miladinovic issued orders to Jackals’ commander Nebojsa Minic to burn the village and kill the civilians. Minic was arrested in Argentina in 2005, but died of aids before he was extradited.

“I haven’t committed a crime, I never ordered it nor heard that order,” Miladinovic told the court. “I heard about it the first time when I read the indictment,” he added.

Among the killed civilians was Hasan Ceku, the father of former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and former Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku.

The KLA started a rebellion against Serbian rule in 1999, but Serbian forces were accused of responding with excessive force and of crimes which were termed in the West as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Serbian forces were pushed out of Kosovo in June 1999 by US-led Nato military forces.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal has indicted 161 individuals, mostly Serbs, for crimes allegedly committed in the war that followed the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. More than sixty have been sentenced to over 1,000 years in jail.

The remaining cases have been turned over to local courts and Serbian courts have sentenced in recent years scores of former paramilitaries for war crimes The nine members of a paramilitary group called Sakali (Jackals), have been charged with rounding up civilians during military operation in the village of Cuska in western Kosovo on 14 May 1999, taking away their valuables, burning houses and killing men.

They were arrested in March this year and a total of 26 people have been indicted, but seventeen have been on the run and an international warrant for their arrest was issued by Serbian authorities.

The first accused, Toplica Miladinovic, who was the commander of local Serb territorial defense, denied the charges in the court, saying he never heard of Jackals and didn’t know its members.

According to the indictment, Miladinovic issued orders to Jackals’ commander Nebojsa Minic to burn the village and kill the civilians. Minic was arrested in Argentina in 2005, but died of aids before he was extradited.

“I haven’t committed a crime, I never ordered it nor heard that order,” Miladinovic told the court. “I heard about it the first time when I read the indictment,” he added.

Among the killed civilians was Hasan Ceku, the father of former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and former Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku.

The KLA started a rebellion against Serbian rule in 1999, but Serbian forces were accused of responding with excessive force and of crimes which were termed in the West as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Serbian forces were pushed out of Kosovo in June 1999 by US-led Nato military forces.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal has indicted 161 individuals, mostly Serbs, for crimes allegedly committed in the war that followed the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. More than sixty have been sentenced to over 1,000 years in jail.

The remaining cases have been turned over to local courts and Serbian courts have sentenced in recent years scores of former paramilitaries for war crimes.

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