Monday, July 10, 2006

Six top former Serbian officials go on trial at ICTY for war crimes in Kosovo

ZAGREB/THE HAGUE, July 10 (Hina) - Six top former Serbian political and military officials went on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague on Monday for war crimes committed by Serbian forces against ethnic Albanians in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo in 1999.

The accused are Milan Milutinovic, 63, former president of Serbia; Nikola Sainovic, 58, deputy prime minister of the now defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; General Dragoljub Ojdanic, 65, chief of staff of the Yugoslav armed forces; Nebojsa Pavkovic, 60, commander of the Third Army; Vladimir Lazarevic, 57, commander of the Pristina Corps; and Sreten Lukic, 51, chief of the Serbian police in Kosovo.

The six men are charged with involvement in a "joint criminal enterprise" that resulted in the expulsion of about 800,000 ethnic Albanians from their homes, mass murder, deportation, rapes and other crimes committed as part of a "systematic campaign of terror and violence" in Kosovo in the first half of 1999.

The prosecution will prove that the accused participated, along with the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, in a joint criminal enterprise the aim of which was to alter the ethnic balance in Kosovo in order to maintain Serbian control of the province, Prosecutor Thomas Hannis said in his opening statement.

The accused voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY between 2002 and 2005 and at their initial appearance before judges they all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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