On the trial of Suva Reka
Nga krimi i organizuar deri të gënjeshtra e organizuar
Për gjykimin ’’Lënda: Suhareka’’
1987 – 1998 - Apartheid: rigged political trial, the change of provincial leadership, “the kidnapping” of the language, the suspension of Kosovo’s autonomy, the closing down of Albanian language schools and university departments and the dismissal of professors and medical workers, brutal police and military breaking up all demonstrations – hundreds of dead, the massacre in Malisevo, the Klina and Podujevo killings, the killings of miners at Stari Trg in Trepca. (Apartdejt: gjykimiet epolitike të montuara, ndërrimi i udhëheqësisë së krahinës, ’’kidnapimi“ gjuhësor, heqja e Autonomisë Kosovës, mbyllja e shkollave dhe Universitetit në gjuhën shqipe, largimi i punëtorëve të arsimit dhe të shëndetësisë, njësitë policore dhe ushtarake brutalisht shkatërrojnë të gjitha demostratat- qindra të vdekur, masakra e Malishevës, vrasjet në Klinë dhe Podujevë, vrasjet e minatorëve në Stari Trg në Trepçë)
1998 – The massacres of Albanian civilians in Drenica (Donje Prekaze, Likosane, Gornje Obrinje, Lausa, Cirez, and Rogovo. (Maskrat ndaj civilëve shqiptar në Drenicë (Prekaz i Poshtëm, Likoshan, Obri e Epërme, Laushë, Qirez, Rogovë)
1998 – 1999 – War or the armed conflict, the Yugoslav Army and special police units against the Kosovo Liberation Army. (Luftë ose konflikt i armatosur i UJ-së(Ushtrisë Jugosllave)/NSP-së (Njësitë Speciale Policore) dhe UÇK-së (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës)
1999 – The massacres of Albanian civilians throughout Kosovo (in Racak, Podujevo, Suva Reka, Dubrava, Meja, Velika Krusa, Mala Krusa, Celine, Pusto Selo, Gornja Sudimlja, and Donja Sudimlja), mass deportations of 960,000  Albanians repeated state-organized ethnic cleansing, the murder of prominent Kosovar Albanians (including Fehmi Agani and Bajra Keljmendi) (Masakrat ndaj civilëve shqiptar në tërë Kosovën (Reçak, Podujevë, Suharekë, Dubravë, Mejë,Krushë e madhe dhe e Vogël, Celine, Fshati i Thatë, Studime e Epërme dhe e Poshtme), depëtimet masive të popullatës shqiptare (960.000, përsëri organizim shtetëror për pastrimin etnik, vrasja e shqiptraëve eminent (Fehmi Agani, Bajram Kelmendi)
1999 – 2001 – Rigged trials in Serbian courts of prominent Kosovar Albanian leaders (Albin Kurti, Flora Brovina, the Đakovica group, the Mazreku brothers, and some Albanian students) (Gjykimete e montuara ndaj liderve të shquar dhe lidereve të shquara të popullit shqiptar të Koosvës pranë gjykatave në Serbi (Albin Kurti, Flora Brovina, Grupi i Gjakovës, vëllezërit Mazreku, studentët shqiptar)
(October 2,3,4,5 2006)
Today, before the board of the district court in Belgrade, the trial for the Suva Reka crimes began.
On the first day of court, the indictment was read, and the defendants made their pleas.
The trial is being monitored by Women in Black Network activists.
First and foremost, we Women in Black activists are monitoring this trial in order to be with the families of the victims. This act respects the victims’ dignity, shows solidarity with the families, and acknowledges the crime committed in our name.
In doing so, we are trying to sympathize with their pain caused by the loss of their loved ones. We are talking with the families, exchanging information, drinking coffee, and laughing.
Voilence: Stages: Dhuna: Etapat:
* State organized crime Shteti organizator i krimit
On March 26, 1999, in Suva Reka, in the Kalabrija pizzeria and the Pur Restaurant, members of a Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs special police unit—Radoslav Mitrovic, a colonel and aide to the commanding police officer; Radojko Repanović an aide to the police station commanding officer; Nenad Jovanovic, a detective inspector; Sladjan Cukaric, a policeman; Milorad Nisavic, a member of the State Security Police; Miroslav Petkovic, a reservist; Zoran Petkovic, a reservist; and Ramiz Papic, a policeman from Sjenica, killed 48 people, 46 of whom were members of the Berisha family. Shireta, Vjolca, and Gramos Berisha were the only survivors. The bodies had been buried in one of the mass graves in Kosovo, at a military rifle range in Prizren. A week later, they were transported to Serbia and buried in Batajnica at the orders of General Vlastimir Djordjevic, a Hague defendant. From here, the bodies were returned to their families in Kosovo.
The defendant Radosav Mitrovic had commanding authority in the Suva Reka region and is therefore held responsible, since he ordered the lower-ranking employees of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia to, according to the indictment, ‘get moving! What are you waiting for? Kill! Drive! Am I supposed to do that for you?’
From his behavior, it is easy to conclude that he is a professional, well-trained cog (in the words of Hannah Arendt) in the death machine, the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
He was decorated with a medal of the Yugoslav flag with a star due to his war merits. He was the third commanding police officer, obedient, an executor.
This crime, like many others, was organized, carried out and executed by the state. The state is always the first to excuse itself and say it is sorry to the victims’ families. (October 2-5, 2006)
Velibor Veljkovic, a policeman, a witness, who has confessed, described the whole crime, ‘on March 24, a war crime occurred. That is why I am here today.’
He said that he had refused a mission to kill Albanians since he considered it a crime. He added that there were no conditions in which the police could use arms under their rules of employment.
This further proves that the crime was organized by the state, that the state carried it out; it is also evident that there was intention. It was no accident. He said regarding the defendants, ‘they know exactly what they have done.’ (November 7- 9, 2006)
An unnamed witness said, ‘there was a special police unit in Suva Reka led by Veljko Radenovic. People who came from Krusevac assisted it. They were called Cegrovi. The special unit’s commanding officer was Radoslav Mitrovic (Cegar).’ This proves that the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians was organized by the state. (January 10-12 2007)
Another unnamed witness said that there had been a lot of army members in the area— armed KLA, armed Serbian civilians, police reservists, regular police forces, special police forces, special police units, and the regular army...
Yet another unnamed witness said that the situation in Kosovo had been ‘a regular state of emergency.’ (February 1-5, 2007)
“There has been a massacre at the trade centre!” – said witness Trajko Trajkovic, a Roma who was 16 at the time. (June 4-8, 2007)
‘I don’t remember whether there was shooting. I don’t remember if inhabitants were expelled. I didn’t see any looting. I really can’t remember a thing. I haven’t a clue. I can’t remember when I became a member of the Special Police unit.’ This witness ended, saying, ‘almost all Serbs down there were reservists.’ Starting in 1989, there has only been Serb police. There was great repression of Albanian population. Police are the true champions of apartheid.
All Serbs in Kosovo have been policemen. (July 2-5 2007)
*War on civilians Lufta kundër civilëve
Prosecutor Vitorovic asked defendant Mitrovic if he had said, ‘If there was bombing, there would not be Serbs, but there would certainly not be Albanians either.’ The defense objected.
The second defendant, Radojko Repanovic, was the commanding officer of the police station in Suva Reka. He claimed that a huge region had been controlled by the terrorist and separatist KLA.
It is difficult to believe that underage Genci, Granit, Dafina, Drilon, Vlorjan, Edon, Doruntina, Majlinda, Herolinda, Altin, Redon, Ismet, Eron, Kushtrim, Arta, Zana, Merita, Hanumsha, and Mirat were all members of the KLA. They were only children, caught in a moment in history and a maelstrom of war and ethnic cleansing because of their names. (October 2-5 2006)
Witness Velibor Veljkovic — disloyal to his own—firmly stated that Albanians had not fired at them and that all the victims were civilians.
All the corpses were civilians; no one was wearing a uniform.
Nataša Kandic, the lawyer for the victims’ families, asked one of the witnesses, ‘have you heard of the mass destruction in Mala Krusa, Velika Krusa, Pusto Selo, and Celin? Those were the killings that happened in the Prizren municipality." Veljko Djurdjic, a defense lawyer, replied, ‘if we pose questions about the whole territory of Kosovo, we will be stuck here for five years.’ (November 7-9 2006)
‘Civilians had not been mad to go to the police station while running away from the police itself. I couldn’t help the wounded, since I was afraid. The police were defending the Serbs, so I couldn’t help the Albanians. The policeman behaved like cowboys. Nobody could tell them a thing. We were quiet as a mouse,’ said A, a protected witness. (December 2006)
Witness A repeated many times that one could see a lot of women and children in the photographs. This is one of the proofs that Serbian army and police had not been waging war on the Kosovo Liberation Army, but a war on civilian population.
Thus, it could be concluded that all the murdered children from the Berisha family were terrorists. This is absurd. (January 10-12, 2007)
Witness A said that the police had orders to fire at the members of the KLA but he also added, that not one gun had been fired. This confirms the fact that Serb police in Kosovo has not been at war with armed members of the KLA, but that it was waging war against civilians. (February 1-5, 2007)
There wasn’t KLA in Suva Reka, which confirms that Serb armed forces and police were not at war with the KLA. Rather, they were killing innocent civilians. (April 2-5, 2007)
Victims all of a sudden turned into executioners and the executioners turned into victims. (May 15-17, 2007)
‘Our aim was breaking up the terrorist groups.’ Simultaneously, it had been a state terrorist machine, constantly terrorizing the Albanian population. (July 2-5, 2007)
* Coordinated acts of ethnic cleansing Koordinimi i aksioneve për pastrim etnik
The defendant, Radosav Mitrovic, showed off his role in breaking up demonstrations in Kosovo in the 1980s, much like the ones in Serbia in the 199os. He stated that his ancestors have always given blood for his country when it has been necessary. He was in Kosovo from February 1998 to June 14, 1999.
We have been witnesses of ethnic cleansing as a state-organized crime. Today, on October 3, the first defendant continued his testimony, ‘I was cleaning the territory with my men.’ In the Prizren region, Orahovac, and Suva Reka, ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population has been conducted. ‘My forces occupied the region. They conquered it. I had been promoted colonel. I was not under army command. I was in charge of my three companies. All the orders came from the commanding station in Pristina.’
The defendant constantly repeated that they had only been cleaning the region of “Albanian terrorists.” Once again, the expression ethnic cleansing has been relativized. (October 2-5, 2006)
All those innocent people who in a particular moment in history bore a certain name have been the target of state-organized ethnic cleansing and killings.
On of the witnesses testified that ethnic cleansing was organized by the state and that the goal had been ethnically pure territory without people with a specific name. Velibor Veljkovic, a witness, also mentioned various work groups. The first to work was “the killing group.” Then, “the body-collecting group” came. In the end, there was the cleansing group. (November 7-9, 2006)
When the defense poses the question, ‘did the police follow orders?,’ the defendants and the witnesses reply affirmatively. The question “what exactly does it mean to follow the law as a police officer during wartime?” has not been posed. It is understood that things such as killing an enemy—Albanian civilians—are allowed, even desirable, without room for justice. Through the ethnic cleansing, an ethnically pure space without people and language has been created. None of them hoped that they would be held responsible for their crimes.
When asked ‘was the police just doing its job?,’ one of the witnesses agreed. None of them mentioned that the law meant killing as many Albanians as possible and creating as large an ethnically cleansed space as possible. (May 15-17, 2007)
‘My son Zoran used to drive a bus for an Albanian. Only Albanians had firms there.’ This woman witness kept using the word Shiptar—a slur for Albanian—without fear of the consequences. Her speech, hate speech, was the language which blazed the trail to the ethnic cleansing of the Kosovar Albanian population. No one responded to this word, not even the judges.
I start asking myself, what does it mean to be obedient in the police? It means unquestioningly executing all of their so-called tasks—murder, ethnic cleansing, and rape. (July 2-5, 2007)
* The conspiracy of silence, the crime of silence, the burden of silence, and the lies organized by the state/ Komploti i heshtjes/krimi i heshtjes/barra, trashëgimija e heshtjes ose gënjeshtra shtetërore e orgaizuar
Defendant Radosav Mitrovic stated that he hadn’t paid attention to whether the houses surrounding the police station had been burnt down. He also hadn’t noticed the lines of people, Albanian refugees leaving Kosovo. That had been the duty of the traffic police. Ethnic cleansing was the task of the police force, but he, the commanding officer, didn’t bother with it. He stressed that he had commanding authority. He had only been in charge for his own subordinates. ‘If we are at war, everyone is at war. Then, we have a collective spirit. I have been a brave officer and have always gone with the ranks.’ He was only being a professional, respecting his duty. (October 2-5, 2006)
The presiding judge, thinking of the killing of Albanian civilians, asked, ‘Did anyone stand up to it?’ Witness A replied, ‘who dared to confront them?’ (December 2006)
After the testimony of one of the witnesses who said that the police had been providing the Albanian population with protection, the prosecutor Vitorović asked, ‘how is it possible that on a day when 48 people were killed, there was not any police protection?’
To the question of the lawyer for the victims’ families, Natasa Kandic, ‘did the police take money from Jashar Berisha?,’ an unnamed witness replied, ‘our policeman have not been taking money.’ This is a denial of a widely known fact that, during the ethnic cleansing, police took money from people in exchange for their lives.
The repudiation of well-known facts, the concealment of commanding responsibility, and the denial of any kind of responsibility whatsoever has continued. An unnamed witness continued the practice of the previous witnesses, who were doing their best to conceal the rigged policy of crime and hide the responsibility of General Obrad Stevanović. (February 1-5, 2007)
The unnamed witness has also continued to deny any knowledge of the murder of the Berisha family. Like the majority of the previous witnesses, he was trying hard to protect the state and its representatives from the indictments.
Unprotected Roma witnesses were not afraid to publicly state all that they knew. They have been the only ones showing humanity even though they had been having a hard time. (April 2-5, 2007)
Defendant Radosav Mitrovic praised the professionalism and honesty of his superiors, namely, General Obrad Stevanovic and General Sreten Lukic.
Defendant Radosav Mitrovic pleaded not guilty to war crime against the civilian population and cited his qualifications and training.
‘The regular police did its duty in Suva Reka. The Albanian population has moved out, pressured by the terrorist KLA.’ This is falsification, rationalization, and straightforward denial of the crime.
Defendant Radosav Mitrovic stated that his people had a mission to ‘defend their country and homeland.’ He added. ‘I am a highly-educated professional commanding officer.’ (October 2-5, 2006)
An unnamed witness claimed that the reason for the population movement had been the war and NATO bombing. (November 7-9, 2006)
An unnamed witness denied Serbia ’s involvement in organized ethnic cleansing actions.
When asked by the judges panel if there had been any burnt down Albanian houses, the witness replied, ‘they were burning their own homes and running away.’ This is proof of state-organized lies. (February 1-5, 2007)
All the following witnesses tried very hard to conceal the facts. First and foremost, they wanted to protect themselves, and then their superiors, and the state of Serbia. Repudiating the existence of the crime, that is their knowledge of it, they want to conceal the responsibility of the state of Serbia, who organized the crimes in the first place. (March 5-9, 2007)
The killing of Kosovar Albanians is presented as a normal thing to do. It has not been talked about as if it had never happened. It has been justified by the so-called war on terrorism.
Amnesia—being silent about the crimes organized by the state--is the witnesses’ political choice. They have chosen not to know, not to remember, and not to mention anything. They want to protect themselves, their superiors, and the state. They do not feel empathy towards the victims; the Albanian victims do not exist.
Among these witnesses, it is considered essential to not know what was happening to Albanians. They have chosen to be silent. They have chosen not to know, not to remember. An unnamed witness does his best to conceal that what we are dealing with here is ethnic cleansing organized by the state.
The fewer facts about state crime revealed, the better it is for the state. (May 15-17, 2007)
This witness, the former Suva Reka municipal mayor, is a very cunning and skilful liar. He knows exactly what to say. He can lie artfully and convincingly. Moreover, he is certain that he will never be held responsible for his dishonesty.
This witness, as an official of the criminal regime, is the executor of the laws which approve and support lies. The witness is a like a common German farmer who worked in the field by Auschwitz and who claimed, after the war, not to have known what had been going on there. He chose not to know or not to remember.
The witness denies and negates his role as a cog in the machine of state-organized ethnic cleansing, executed with the aim of completely cleansing of the territory and getting rid of unwanted people, unfit names, and inappropriate language. The aim was the creation of a purged territory with certain names and a language banished. This is evidence that there was no lawlessness, autocracy, or anarchy in Kosovo during the NATO bombing. On the contrary, there seems to have been a real system at work.
State officials or employees of the state institutions lie, not only in their own interests, but also in the interest of the state they want to protect.
All of them have only one law to obey, the law of the shameless lie. (June 4-8, 2007)
Witness Vera Petkovic, the mother of two defendants, Zoran and Miroslav Petković, said, ‘I am not at all familiar with the suffering of the Berisha family since I live far from the alleged crime scene.’
‘There wasn’t anything odd to attract my attention. I don’t remember any arson,’ said one of the police witnesses.
The Ministry of the Republic of Serbia is lying. Their professional task had been to kill, expel as many Albanians as possible, and not know anything about the matter afterwards. Lying was, has become, and remains one of their perfectly executed missions.
One witness, a high state official, claims that he was not aware of any other police forces in Prizren, ‘I have only heard of the Special Police units.’ He finished his testimony by saying, ‘my unit did not kill. It completed its duties conscientiously and responsibly.’ Indeed, we are all familiar with this. When it came to the police, to complete one’s duty conscientiously and responsibly really meant to expel and kill as many Albanians as possible. Their special task has been the ethnic cleansing of the Kosovar Albanian population. Approximately 960,000 Albanians were driven out of Kosovo in 1999. (July 2-5, 2007)
Assaults on human rights activists Sulmi në mbrojtë-sit/-set e të drejtave të njeriut
Before the trial began, the defense lawyers asked for the disqualification of the presiding judge. They have also tried to discredit Nataša Kandic by proposing her as a witness, so as to prevent her from taking part in the trial.
The defense has also tried to discredit the prosecutor, Dragoljub Todorovic, saying, ‘who made him leading prosecutor?’
Furthermore, the defense constantly verbally assaulted Natasa Kandic. ‘She isn’t a graduate of law…She hasn’t been called to the bar… She is not an expert… She can’t ask questions… We demand her exclusion from the courtroom...’
This shows how human rights activists, such as Nataša Kandić and Women in Black, are assaulted in this country, instead of the criminals themselves. (October 2-5, 2006)
Defense lawyer Goran Petronijevic has once again tried to discredit the attorney of the families of the victims, Nataša Kandic, but she answered that she lawyer had already proved her expertise.
Once again defense lawyer Goran Petronijevic verbally assaulted Natasa Kandic, but she defender herself admirably.’
Defense lawyer Goran Petronijevic again tried to discredit Nataša Kandic, saying ‘She can’t pose a question’ He added that the police kept forcing the population to go back to the villages. Nataša Kandic said that the people had been forced to go back on April 14, 1999, but that on April 27 they had been stopped in Meja and slaughtered. (November 7-9, 2006)
Prosecutor Vitorovic explained the indictment, saying that the responsibility to the victims supersedes all other responsibilities. He is extremely patient and is doing his best to lead the witness to say all that they know about the events in question. His undisputed moral virtue and judicial consistency are constantly tried by the defense.
Prosecuting attorney Dragoljub Todorovic and Natasa Kandic, the attorney for the victims’ families, insist on finding out as many facts as possible related to the situation in Suva Reka, as well as Kosovo as a whole. Nataša Kandić firmly insists on mentioning other mass killings of Kosovar Albanians. However she is interrupted by the defense lawyers as well as the presiding judge. The panel of judges seems to not want the truth of other suffering to be made public in this trial. (March 5-9, 2007)
The families of the victims and journalists from Kosovo commented on changes in the workings of the panel of judges. In the beginning, the presiding judge was trying very hard to find out what really had gone on, but now it seemed that someone had stopped the whole process. The prosecutor is not allowed to directly question witnesses; he is forced to do so through the presiding judge. The presiding judge seems to be making effort so that the witnesses reveal little information which could damage the state of Serbia. (April 2-5, 2007)
Thanks to Mihane Nartilë Salihu-Bala for translation into Albanian language