Former Milosevic aide on trial for war crimes

The trial of Vlastimir Djordjevic, a former Serbian general and aide to ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, has begun at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Charges against Djordjevic include crimes against humanity.


AFP - Former Serbian general Vlastimir Djordjevic went on trial Tuesday at the UN's Yugoslav war crimes court for the murders of hundreds of ethnic Albanians and the deportation of 800,000 others from Kosovo.

The prosecutor, Chester Stamp, accused Djordjevic of taking part in a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Albanians in Kosovo between January and June 1999.

During this campaign, Yugoslavian and Serbian armies expelled one third of the Albanians living in Kosovo, he argued before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The 60-year-old former assistant internal affairs minister and police commander faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for deportation, murder and racial persecution.

The indictment alleges that Djordjevic "willingly participated in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was to expel the majority of the Kosovo Albanian population to ensure continued Serbian control over the territory".

This was to be achieved through murder, deportation and persecution, said a court statement, adding: "These forces are also alleged to have sexually assaulted women, as well as looted and destroyed civilian property and religious sites."

Stamp said Albanians were forced to leave their homes en masse -- the women and children separated from the men, who were killed.

At border posts, their identity papers were confiscated to prevent them from returning.

And to conceal the killings, the bodies of victims were exhumed and moved to mass graves in Serbia, said the prosecutor -- stressing Djordjevic's role in these operations.

Djordjevic was arrested in Montenegro in June 2007 after nearly four years on the run. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He told the court on Tuesday that the operations he oversaw were not aimed against civilians but the "terrorists" of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

"They wanted to secede and created the semblance of a humanitarian catastrophe for which Serbia would be blamed," he charged.

Djordjevic was an aide to Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president who died in March 2006 of natural causes while on trial before the same tribunal.

His trial is the fifth and last before the ICTY concerning war crimes in Kosovo.

Former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic and five co-accused were tried  between July 2006 and August 2008 on war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kosovo. Judgement in that case is expected next month.

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