Former VJ driver testifying under the pseudonym K-54 described for the third time before the Tribunal how Albanian civilians were killed in the village of Trnje in March 1999. This time, however, the witness said that the police were involved in the operation prompting the defense of accused general Vlastimir Djordjevic to react

Vlastimir Djordjevic in the courtroomVlastimir Djordjevic in the courtroom

The trial of police general Vlastimir Djordjevic continued with the evidence of a former driver in a VJ logistics unit in the Prizren area who testified under pseudonym K-54 and with image distortion as protective measures. The witness appeared before the Tribunal for the third time, having previously given evidence on the crimes the army and police committed in Kosovo at the trials of Slobodan Milosevic and the Kosovo Six. Today the prosecution tendered into evidence the statement the witness gave in 2002.

Former member of a VJ logistics unit described some of the attacks on Albanian villages in 1998 and 1999. According to him, ‘there was allegedly terrorist presence there’ but when the army and the police entered the villages, they killed civilians and burned and looted the houses. The witness’s description of the attacks on Albanian villages conforms to the allegations in the indictment against the former chief of the Public Security Department Vlastimir Djordjevic. The villages were first shelled by tanks and heavy artillery, the witness said. The army and the police then entered the villages ‘killing everybody in their way’. The attacks were mostly ordered, the witness contends, by the commander of the 549th Motorized brigade Bozidar Delic. Delic, a high official in the Serbian Progressive Party headed by Seselj’s former deputy Toma Nikolic, testified as a defense witness at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and General Vladimir Lazarevic.

The most serious incident the witness described happened in the village of Trnje, en route from Suva Reka and Mamusa, where as the witness estimated some 50 to 60 civilians were killed on 25 March 1999. Following a well-known pattern, the village was shelled and when the elderly, women and children fled across the meadows nearby, fire was opened on them, the witness recounted. After the forces entered the village, the survivors were killed. Very few among them, the witness said, were men of military age. ‘For the most part, it was the elderly, women and children that were killed’, the witness noted. The village was then burned down. The witness himself ‘set on fire’ a bus on the orders of his superiors.

The witness’s unit then returned to Prizren. When they saw their barracks destroyed by the NATO air strikes, soldiers were ordered to expel the Albanians from a neighborhood in Prizren and to seek accommodation in their houses. On 6 June 1999, the witness returned to Montenegro, his home country, and never went back to Kosovo.

Because the witness claimed the police units had also taken part in the attack against the village of Trnje, defense counsel Djurdjic told the witness in his cross-examination that he had never mentioned that before today, although he could have done so in the numerous statements he gave to the OTP investigators and in his two previous testimonies before the Tribunal. The witness replied that on those occasions he was asked only about the activities of the army, adding ‘I didn’t reckon I’d be giving evidence at a trial of a police officer’. In the Kosovo Six judgment in February 2009 the witness’s evidence was found to be ‘reliable in principle’ and most of what he said about the crimes against Albanian civilians was accepted as true.

The cross-examination continues tomorrow.