Belgrade’s Humanitarian Law Centre released a documentary accusing the head of the Serbian Army, Ljubisa Dikovic, of involvement in war crimes in Kosovo and cover-up operations to hide the bodies.
The new documentary, released by the Humanitarian Law Centre on Tuesday, alleges that approximately 1,400 civilians were killed in 1999 in an area of Kosovo which was under the control of the 37th Brigade of the Yugoslav Army, which at the time was headed by Ljubisa Dikovic.
The 23-minute film entitled ‘General Dikovic and the 37th Brigade in Kosovo’ is based on the testimonies of victims and documents from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, but also on research carried out by the HLC during its work on two dossiers entitled ‘Ljubisa Dikovic’ and ‘Rudnica’, which were published in 2012 and 2015.
The Serbian defence ministry and Dikovic, who is now the chief of staff of the Serbian Army, have strongly denied the allegations.
The HLC’s evidence reveals the role of the Yugoslav Army in the mass killings of Albanian civilians in Izbica, Cirez, Savarine, Rezala and other villages in the Drenica region.
Some of the remains of a number of the victims were later discovered in mass graves in Serbia.
Forty-seven of the victims’ bodies were found in 2014 in a mass grave at the Rudnica quarry, near the town of Raska in southern Serbia.
According to the HLC, the 37th Brigade was responsible for the removal of the bodies from the villages of Rezala, Staro Cikitovo, Donji Zabelj and Gladno Selo in an attempted cover-up.
The crimes committed by the 37th Brigade were partly dealt with during the trial of former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and other senior officials at the Hague Tribunal, but no one from the brigade was ever prosecuted.
The Serbian prosecution has claimed it has launched an investigation into the violence in Rezala, but so far no indictments have been issued.
Dikovic sued the HLC over the claims in the 2012 dossier and was awarded around 4,500 euros for what the Belgrade court ruled was the damage to his reputation. HLC announced it will be appeal the verdict.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is shown in the HLC film telling journalists that he is “personally convinced that Mr. Dikovic is not a war criminal”.
The HLC said that it posted the documentary on YouTube on Tuesday after several TV channels in Serbia, including the public broadcasters Radio-Television Serbia and Radio-Television Vojvodina, “refused or have not responded to the request that they screen the film”.
Approximately 1,400 civilians were killed in the area of responsibility of the 37th Brigade of the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo in 1999. The mortal remains of a number of victims were discovered in mass graves in Serbia. The present Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Army, Ljubiša Diković, was the Commander of the Brigade at this time. Neither he nor any members of his unit have been held accountable for these crimes.
The evidence showing the presence and the role of the Yugoslav Army in the mass killings of civilians in Izbica, Čirez, Savarine, Rezala and other villages in the Drenica region is presented in the film titled “Ljubiša Diković and the 37th Brigade in Kosovo”, made by the Humanitarian Law Center. This evidence has already been presented in the “Ljubiša Diković” and “Rudnica” Dossiers.
A number of TV services in Serbia, including the public broadcasters Radio and Television of Serbia and Radio and Television of Vojvodina, have refused or have not responded to the request that they screen the film. For this reason, the film will be posted on the HLC’s webpage and youtube channel on Tuesday, February 21st at 11:00 a.m.
Ljubiša Diković (born 1960) is the Chief-of-staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, having been appointed on 12 December 2011. He previously served as Commander-in-Chief of the Serbian Land Forces.
Ljubiša Diković was born in Užice, SFR Yugoslavia on 22 May 1960. He graduated at Military Academy of Land Forces in 1984. In 1989 he became Platoon Commander of Yugoslav People’s Army and in 1991 he got promoted to Company Commander. Soon afterwards, in 1992 he moved to the position of Commander of 16th Border Battalion, where he stayed until 1996. In that same year he completed Army’s Staff Command College. From 1996 to 1998 Diković served as Chief of Staff of 37th motorized brigade, which is part of 3rd Land Force Brigade of Serbian Land Forces only to become the Commander of that same brigade in 1998. He was holding that position until 2001 when he became Head of Army Department at Military Academy in Belgrade until 2003. Next two years he spent at Užice Army corps HQ, firstly as a Chief of Section and afterwards as the Chief of Staff. During 2005, he served as Deputy Chief of the Serbian General Staff and in 2006 as Deputy Chief of J-3, which represents Operations Directorate. Between 2006 and 2007 General Diković held position of Chief of Staff of Joint Operations Command of Serbian General Staff. In 2007 he moved to the position of Commander at Serbian Training Command for the next two years before being promoted to the position of Commander in Chief of Serbian Land Forces in Niš. On 12 December 2011, Serbian President Boris Tadić appointed him to the position of the Chief of the General Staff of Serbian Armed Forces.
Some of his former colleagues consider General Diković as a good choice for the Army’s top position, because of his career references.
(Marija Ristic from BIRN, Wikipedia contributed for this report “Full documentary: The head of the Serbian Army, Ljubisa Dikovic, involvement in war crimes in Kosovo”, edited to fit the style of the page, added additional material and illustrations by Alad Von Alad via VOP)