15:09 / 20.03.2023.

Author: Domagoj Ferenčić

KOS director sentenced to 20 years in absentia for war crimes

Replica of the Stajićevo POW Camp at the Vukovar Memorial Center

Replica of the Stajićevo POW Camp at the Vukovar Memorial Center

Foto: Davor Javorovic / PIXSELL

For war crimes against Croatian civilians and prisoners of war in camps on the territory of Serbia and Croatia, the former head of the Yugoslav military Counterintelligence Service (KOS) was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison at the Osijek County Court on Monday.

Aleksandar Vasiljević was charged with having committed the crimes as the head of the Security Directorate of the then Yugoslavian Federal Secretariat for National Defense (SSNO), during Croatia’s fight for independence, an armed conflict on the territory of the Republic of Croatia between the regular armed forces of the Croatian Army and the paramilitary units of the insurgent Serbs and the forces of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA).

On October 10th of 1991, Serb and JNA leaders established prisoner of war camps in Serbia and the occupied parts of Croatia (Begejci, Stajićevo, Sremska Mitrovica, Niš, and Stara Gradiška). In the indictment against Vasiljević, the prosecution pointed out that on the same date, by order of the Security Administration of the then Yugoslav SSNO, Vasiljević, as the head of the said Administration, appointed subordinates as the de facto commanders of the camps and sent several groups of security officers to interrogate POWs.

From the beginning of October 1991 to May 1992, Croat civilians and soldiers captured in the areas of Osijek, Vukovar, Karlovac, Stara Gradiška, Slunj and other places in Croatia, were illegally brought to and detained in the camps in Serbia.

The indictment further stated that as the responsible person in the chain of command, Vasiljević knew that his subordinates, as well as members of other units, were torturing and killing Croatian detainees and that they routinely treated detained civilians and prisoners inhumanely, but that in spite of his knowledge of these crimes, did nothing to suppress such behavior and punish the perpetrators, and was thereby complicit in the illegal actions and their consequences.

As a result of the systematic abuse, 19 Croatian detainees were killed in the Serbian camps Begejci, Stajićevo, Sremska Mitrovica, Niš and Stara Gradiška, while a larger number of detained civilians and POWs suffered severe and life-threatening injuries, with the consequences of permanent damage to their health, additionally several women were systematically raped and sexually abused.

In presenting the verdict of 20 years in prison, the President of the Judicial Council Zvonko Vrban said that Vasiljević's guilt stems from the collected evidence, witness statements, reviewed material documentation and the statements of the defendant himself: "Detainees were physically and mentally tortured and abused in the camps on a daily basis, through interrogations conducted by members of the Serbian State Security Service, which Vasiljević was aware of but did nothing to prevent, nor did he ensure adequate living conditions for the prisoners. In these inhumane conditions and daily abuse, 19 detainees were killed," judge Vrban said.

Source: HRT

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