Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Serb Kosovo general pleads not guilty to war crimes

AMSTERDAM, May 4 (Reuters) - Former Serbian police general Sreten Lukic pleaded not guilty on Wednesday at the U.N. war crimes tribunal to charges of murdering, deporting and persecuting Kosovo Albanians in 1999.

Lukic, charged with four counts of crimes against humanity and one count of violations of the laws or customs of war, delayed his plea on April 6. It is standard procedure for suspects to request 30 days to consider their plea when they first appear at the tribunal.

"I plead not guilty to all counts of the indictment," Lukic told the court in The Hague.

Lukic, the former head of the Interior Ministry's paramilitary police force, is one of four generals indicted in 2003 for the murder of Kosovo Albanian civilians in 1999, while Serb forces were battling ethnic Albanian separatist guerrillas and NATO was bombing Serbia.

Prosecutors say Serb forces murdered hundreds of ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo during a systematic and brutal campaign to drive out 800,000 civilians.

The indictment refers to "a deliberate and widespread ... campaign of terror and violence directed at the Kosovo Albanian population" during the rule of then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is now on trial in The Hague.

An estimated 12,000 Kosovo Albanian civilians were killed in the 1998-99 conflict and 800,000 were expelled or fled during the 78 days of NATO bombing. Serb forces left the province in June 1999 and a NATO occupation force took over.

No comments: