WHAT SURPRISES JUDGE BONOMY
Judge Bonomy has problems realizing why no one in the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (MUP) found it strange that in Racak 40 or more people were killed and no one was wounded on the side that “opened fierce fire”, while the side that “fired back” had only one wounded. “Didn’t it occur to anyone (in the MUP) to launch an investigation into the behavior of the police in Racak?” the judge asked the former assistant minister.
Obrad Stevanovic, witness in the Milosevic trial
On the fourth day of hearing of General Obrad Stevanovic, former Assistant Minister of the Interior of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic finally addressed some of the specific allegations from the indictment which charges him with crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo. He started by trying to show that leaders of the Serbian police had taken all the necessary steps to prevent crimes or – if they did occur – to identify and punish their perpetrators.
General Stevanovic insists that the Serbian MUP was simply “obsessed with the idea that the police should act in accordance with the law”. In evidence, he said that 12 police officers, who had been found to have committed criminal offences that resulted in deaths, had been criminally prosecuted, but was unable to answer the question put by Judge Bonomy whether any of the police officers had been convicted. In this context, the judge expressed his surprise that the Serbian MUP did not have a record of convicted police officers, and the former assistant minister had no explanation for that.
Milosevic then moved on to the charge of murder of 40 Kosovo Albanians in the village of Racak on 15 January 1999. Citing official documents of the Serbian MUP, Milosevic claimed, and General Stevanovic confirmed, that the Racak operation had been undertaken “with the aim of arresting a group of terrorists responsible for the murder of a police officer and other crimes”, that the terrorists had opened “fierce fire, using mortars, hand-held missile launchers, heavy machineguns and small arms,” and that the police fired back “killing 40 terrorists”. According to Milosevic and his witness, the terrorists were more heavily armed than the police, which is why “there is no question of the police having used disproportional force.” Serbian MUP documents conclude that the police “did not overstep their authority” in Racak and that they used firearms “in accordance with the law: gradually, selectively and properly”.
Judge Bonomy, however, found it inconceivable that no one in the Serbian MUP thought it strange that 40 or more people were killed and no one was wounded on the side that “opened fierce fire”, while the side that “fired back” had only one wounded. “Didn’t it occur to anyone (in the MUP) to launch an investigation into the behavior of the police in Racak?” the judge asked the former assistant minister. Milosevic tried to answer the question instead of the witness, suggesting that the MUP’s conclusion regarding “the gradual, selective and proper use of fire was certainly based on an investigation.” Judge Bonomy, however, saw this as a “pointless leading question”, saying that an independent investigation into the conduct of the police in Racak would be “of utmost relevance to his defense.” Provided, of course, that it confirmed the official version of the event as given by the MUP that the police “only fired back – legally, gradually, selectively and properly.”
The testimony of General Stevanovic continues next Wednesday.
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