Serb police general appeals 27-year sentence

13th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

Jailed Serbian ex-police general Vlastimir Djordjevic on Monday appealed a 27-year-sentence before the Yugoslav war crimes court for his role in a 1999 plot to terrorise Albanian citizens in Kosovo.

"We assure (the court) that his liability has been overstated and that the sentence is too harsh," one of his lawyers Russell Hopkins told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugslavia (ICTY).

The lawyer said Serbia's former public security head's conviction for crimes against humanity was circumstantial with no solid evidence to back the Hague-based tribunal's decision.

Djordjevic, 64, also a former assistant internal affairs minister was sentenced in February 2011 for aiding and abetting the murders of "not less than 724 Kosovo Albanians" between January and June 1999.

Considered a key aide to Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president who died in March 2006 while on trial before the same tribunal, Djordjevic is seen as the most senior official responsible for the expulsion of some 200,000 Albanians from Kosovo between January and June 1999.

Serbia lost control over its former southern province in June 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign halted late strongman Milosevic's crackdown against the pro-independence ethnic Albanian majority and ousted Serbian armed forces from Kosovo.

Prosecutors accused Djordjevic of taking part in a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" which saw Yugoslav and Serb forces expel one third of Albanians living in Kosovo, and sought a 35-year sentence against him.

He was arrested on June 17, 2007 in Montenegro and transferred to The Hague on the same day.

Djordjevic pleaded not guilty and told the court in January 2009 that the operations he oversaw were aimed against the "terrorists" of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The court rejected this defence, saying "in the large majority of cases the victims, including women and children, were civilians who were unarmed and not in any way participating in any form of armed conflict".

But his lawyer on Monday contested the sentence, saying his client was "just another deputy minister" and that his conduct was "not criminal".

"Could he have done better? Probably. But has his conduct been so bad that it was criminal?" Hopkins asked the judges.

Prosecutors put their case on Monday afternoon and it could take several months still before judges make a ruling.

© 2013 AFP

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