Related topics

U.S. Has Warning for Serb Officers

April 7, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department warned nine top Serb military officers in Kosovo today that they could be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity being commited under their commands.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin read the names of nine commanders U.S. officials believe are in charge of operations that have pushed more than 400,000 ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo since NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began two weeks ago.

The fact that they may have been under orders from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who has also been targeted by U.S. officials for possible prosecution, would not leave them immune from individual prosecution, Rubin said.

``The fact that someone is ordered to commit crimes does not relieve that person of the individual criminal liability,″ he said.

Under statutes of the tribunal set up to prosecute for atrocities committed in former Yugoslav republics, any commander could be held responsible for failing to prevent crimes from occurring or for failure to prosecute those who commit them, Rubin said.

Rubin said U.S. officials were gathering evidence of war crimes to send to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, including incidents of mass execution, beatings and forced expulsion.

He said that while the United States was not specifically accusing the officers of ordering the crimes, they are being warned that crimes are being committed by their troops.

``We’re not saying that these individuals, to our knowledge, are responsible for war crimes,″ he said. ``We’re putting them on notice.″ He noted that there is no statute of limitation on the types of crimes involved.

Rubin identified the following commanders:

_Col. Milos Mandic, 252nd Armored Brigade, central Kosovo.

_Maj. Gen. Vladimir Lazarevic, Pristina Corps.

_Col. Mladen Cirkovic, 15th Armored Brigade, Pristina.

_Col. Dragan Zivanovic, 125th Motorized Brigade, Kosovska Mitrovica and Pec.

_Col. Krsman Jelic, 243rd Mechnized Brigade, Ursoevac.

_Col. Bozidar Delic, 549th Motorized Brigade, Prizren and Djakovica

_Col. Radojko Stefanovic, 52nd Mixed Artillery Brigade, Gnjilane

_Col. Milos Djosan, 52nd Light Air Defense Artillery-rocket Regiment, Djakovica.

_Maj. Zeljko Pekovic, 52nd Miliary Police Battalion, Pristina.

Rubin said U.S. officials are continuing to monitor events in Kosovo, including changes in command of the Yugoslav military and the Serb police units.

``We will provide this and further information, including additional names, as we can, to the prosecutor of the tribunal,″ he said.

Information will be provided in a way that protects American source and methods for gathering the information, he said.

Update hourly