Today a Trial Chamber of the ICTY delivered its judgment in Milutinovic et al, a case against a number of high-ranking political, military and police officials of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia regarding crimes committed by FRY/Serbian forces in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. This is the first judgment delivered by the ICTY on Kosovo, since the Kosovo indictment against Slobodan Milosevic was never adjudicated on because of the death of the accused. Because of the scope of the case and the status of the accused, this is beyond any doubt one of the most important trial judgments to be delivered by the ICTY.
In its judgment, the Trial Chamber confirmed the existence of a broad campaign of violence against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population, causing the departure of at least 700.000 Albanians from Kosovo. The campaign was legally qualified as deportation, murder and persecution as crimes against humanity.
Milan Milutinovic was at the relevant time the President of Serbia. He was found by the Trial Chamber not to have had command over the FRY army (VJ), even though he was a member of the collective Supreme Defence Council of the FRY. In practice, it was FRY President Milosevic who exercised actual command authority over the VJ. As President of Serbia, Milutinovic had the potential power to exercise oversight over Serbian governmental institutions. However, the evidence shows that he had little de facto control.
Nikola Sainovic, the then deputy prime minister of Serbia, headed a body, the joint command, that coordinated the actions of the FRY army and Serbian police. In essence, he was Milosevic’s right-hand man on Kosovo, who had a great deal of influence on the events in Kosovo.
General Dragoljub Ojdanic was the chief of the general staff of the FRY army. He exercised de facto and de jure control over the VJ, but did not have such control over the MUP, the Serbian police. He had specific knowledge of the commission of crimes by VJ forces in Kosovo.
General Nebojsa Pavkovic was the commander of the VJ forces in Kosovo, having detailed knowledge and control over events in Kosovo. Far from preventing the commission of crimes in Kosovo, Pavkovic deliberately minimized and under-reported these crimes to his superiors. He actively participated in the joint command led by Sainovic.
General Vladimir Lazarevic was commander of the VJ Pristina corps. He was found to have been aware of the commission of crimes against Kosovo Albanians. Unlike Pavkovic, Lazarevic was found not to have been involved in high-level political decision-making in Belgrade.
General Sreten Lukic was one of the commanders of MUP/Serbian police forces in Kosovo. The Chamber was satisfied that Lukic had significant command and authority over MUP forces in Kosovo, and that he regularly participated in high-level meetings. He was therefore found to have been the de facto commander of MUP in Kosovo, and the bridge between the elaboration of policies in Belgrade and their implementation in Kosovo. However, the Chamber was not convinced that Lukic was involved in the cover-up of murders in Kosovo by the transportation of corpses in ice trucks to mass graves in Serbia proper.
The Chamber found that there was a joint criminal enterprise with the common purpose of expelling the ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Murder and sexual assaults were however not part of this common purpose, but members of the JCE could be responsible for these crimes if they were reasonably foreseeable to them (JCE III).
Milutinovic was not found to have significantly contributed to the JCE. His lack of authority over the FRY/Serbian forces meant that his omission to act could not have been a significant contribution to the JCE. Sajnovic was found to have been one of the most crucial members of the JCE, and to have had the intent to forcibly expel the Albanian population of Kosovo. Murder was reasonably foreseeable to him, though by a majority the Chamber found that sexual assaults were not.
Ojdanic’s and Lazarevic’s responsibility was much more limited. Pavkovic, on the other hand, was found to have been one of the most important contributors to the JCE, and shared the intent of forcibly displacing the Albanian population, while other crimes were also reasonably foreseeable to him. The Chamber reached a similar conclusion in regard of Lukic.
Milutinovic was acquitted of all charges. Sajnovic, Pavkovic and Lukic were found guilty of all charges, by commission as members of a JCE, and were sentenced to 22 years of imprisonment each. Ojdanic and Lazarevic were found to be guilty on two counts of the indictment, by aiding and abetting, and not guilty for other counts, and were sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.