THE HAGUE | 04.10.2005.

MANIPULATING THE RACAK VICTIMS

Bogoljub Janicevic, testifying as Slobodan Milosevic’s defense witness, was in trouble today when he tried to explain why on 15 January 1999 he reported to the Interior Ministry in Belgrade that 60 “terrorists” had been killed in Racak, only to reduce the figure to 15 when he spoke to the OSCE representatives the next day

In a dispatch he sent to the Interior Ministry in Belgrade in the evening of 15 January 1999, Bogoljub Janicevic, police chief in Urosevac, reported that “60 members of the Siptar terrorist gang were killed” in the village of Racak, in an anti-terrorist operation conducted that day.

The next day, 16 January 1999, Janicevic received a visit from the OSCE representatives in the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). They wanted to know what had happened in Racak as they had received reports of about 50 people having been killed in the village. OSCE representatives noted down Chief Janicevic’s explanation that it was a “classic anti-terrorist operation”, in which the police encountered fierce resistance. He said that “at least 15 terrorists” had been killed in the fighting.

According to prosecutor Nice, who brought to light this discrepancy as he cross-examined Janicevic, the first figure – about 60 victims – is “more or less accurate”. As Nice noted, apart from the forty-odd victims whose bodies were found in various locations in Racak, the KLA admitted that at least 9 of its members had been killed that day. Their bodies had been taken away before the arrival of Ambassador Walker and other OSCE representatives in the village. The second figure, “at least 15 terrorists who were killed” was an attempt, according to Nice, on the part of Chief Janicevic to evade responsibility in front of the representatives of the international community when he realized they had information about the number of victims. He thus cut the number down to those he was confident he could prove had been KLA members.

Bogoljub Janicevic indignantly rejected the prosecutor’s suggestions but found himself in trouble when he tried to explain to Judge Bonomy how the figure for the persons killed in Racak was amended from 60 to 15. Janicevic claims that there were no changes, that the “unofficial dispatch” to the Interior Ministry quoted a “rough estimate” by the commanders of the police units participating in the operation. The next day, when he spoke to the representatives of the international community, he gave the “figure that was confirmed at that moment,” because he “did not want to misinform them”.

Unlike the figure for the victims, Janicevic’s description of the operation given in his Racak Events Timeline, he wrote on 19 January, mostly corresponds with what he said to the OSCE representatives three days earlier. The police did not pursue the terrorists “beyond the trenches, with the exception of a group that had been tasked with neutralizing a machine gun emplacement”. Confirming that he did indeed write and say that, Janicevic confirmed the prosecutor’s suggestion that this meant all of them had been killed in or near the trenches.

This, however, does not correspond to the locations in which the victims’ bodies were found, according to the prosecutor: in a pit some distance away from the village, in the streets, courtyards and houses. Janicevic’s explanation was that the “bodies were moved”. As he said, “the terrorists were given the entire night (15 to 16 January) to do certain manipulations”. It is to be expected that the prosecutor will give him an opportunity to elaborate his claim as his cross-examination continues tomorrow.