Reuters, April 23, 2009
Serbia jails 4 ex-policemen for '99 Kosovo killings
BELGRADE, April 23 (Reuters) - Serbia's war crimes court sentenced four ex-policemen on Thursday to prison terms ranging from 13 to 20 years for killing 50 Kosovo Albanians found buried with hundreds of others in a mass grave near Belgrade.
Radojko Repanovic and Sladjan Cukaric were sentenced to 20 years in prison, while Miroslav Petkovic and Milorad Nisavic were sentenced to 15 and 13 years for killing civilians, including a 100-year-old woman and a 9-month-old baby in the Kosovo town of Suva Reka.
"They were found guilty of committing war crimes against civilians," judge Vinka Beraha Nikicevic said while reading the verdict.
The panel of judges released Zoran Petkovic, Nenad Jovanovic and Radoslav Mitrovic who was local police chief at the time. All of the accused were from Suva Reka in southern Kosovo.
The killings took place two days after NATO launched its 78-day bombing campaign to drive Serb forces from Kosovo, accusing them of atrocities against Albanian civilians in a two-year war with separatist guerrillas.
All but two of the victims were from the same family, herded into a cafe in and shot dead. They included 14 children and a pregnant woman.
The bodies were among more than 800 trucked north from Kosovo and buried in pits on a police training ground just outside Belgrade and in eastern Serbia.
Irrefutable proof of a bid to spirit away evidence of atrocities, they were unearthed in 2001 after reformists ousted former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic. Thursday's sentences were the first related to the mass graves.
An estimated 10,000 Kosovo Albanians died in the war, and 800,000 more fled into neighbouring Albania and Macedonia.
Dealing with war crimes committed during 1992-95 Yugoslav wars has been a major obstacle on Serbia's path towards the European Union membership.
The 27-nation bloc said it would unfreeze trade benefits for Serbia only after the authorities extradite former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, indicted for genocide by the United Nations war crimes tribunal.