NEWS

Serb soldier testifies to unprovoked massacre of women and children

Possibly clinching testimony came not from one of the victims, but from one of the Serb soldiers who testified on September 6 as a protected witness. Witness K41, as he was called, was assigned to a logistics support unit, Battalion Technical Company of the 549th Motorized Brigade, commanded by Lieutenant Dragisa Jacimovic. Operations were carried out by a Sergeant Rajko Kozlina. In February 1999, «we took up positions above the village of Jeskovo, then the artillery started… shooting at the village.» He did not notice any return fire coming from the village. Perhaps 30 people had been killed, he said. «I saw 10 dead persons but I did not see a single one in a KLA uniform.» In perhaps the most horrifying testimony given at the trial, witness K41 relates atrocities that took place in the village of Trnje (not in the original indictment) in March 1999. Eighty to 100 soldiers, including his company, took up positions above the village. Captain Pavle Gavrilovic, in his orders to the sergeants, «motioned with his hand toward Trnje, and he said that on that day no one should remain alive there.» They then moved downhill to the outskirts of the village. A man carrying a bag over his shoulder appeared, and was cut down in a burst of gunfire, fired by Sergeant Kozlina. After the village had been raked by anti-aircraft fire, the soldiers moved in. The villagers fled. The soldiers fired on a haystack and then moved from house to house, emptying them of their inhabitants. «I remember an elderly man forced out of his house, and I remember the sergeant [Kozlina] ordering the soldier [Private Milosevic] to shoot him. But the soldier refused and said, ‘I can’t shoot. I can’t shoot at the man.’» Sergeant Kozlina then shot the man, saying, «This is how it’s done,» witness K41 said. Some 15 people were brought out of the houses and assembled in the yard, including women and children. They were made to kneel down in the yard, and the sergeant ordered the soldiers to leave, except for four or five, including witness K41, who were ordered to shoot at the group of people. «There was a baby, and it had been shot with three bullets, and it was screaming unbelievably loud,» the soldier said. A further group of 30 to 40 people had sought shelter by the creek. By this time, some had had enough of the rampage. After pleading by the lieutenant, Jacimovic, the women and children were released. Four or five men were killed. A second village, Mamusa, was then torched. The next day, the dead were collected and placed on a truck. «The sergeant told us that the bodies of the men who were killed in the creek should not be touched… and only the women’s bodies should be collected,» the witness said. A total of five or six bodies were then buried in the mountains. Milosevic was unable to shake witness K41’s testimony. «Who was in command?» Milosevic fired at him. How come a lowly sergeant was in command of a high-ranking officer like Jacimovic? «I explained that to you very nicely,» the witness fired back. The sergeant was a «heroic figure,» the lieutenant a figurehead. «And you, Mr Milosevic, as the supreme commander, you could have come down there a bit and to see what it was like for us, and you were issuing these shameful orders to be carried out.» Had he been promised anything?, Milosevic wanted to know. «Mr Milosevic, I am here of my own free will, and I said that before. Mr Milosevic, when I tell this truth to the person who, in my opinion, is the most responsible for all these crimes, that already makes me feel better. I need no further promises,» witness K41 replied.