KOSOVO: Serbian Court Upholds Prison Terms for Perpetrators of Kosovo Massacre

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Voice of America
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

A Serbian appeals court has upheld prison terms of up to 20 years for three ex-Serb paramilitaries convicted of gunning down 14 ethnic Albanian women and children a decade ago in Kosovo.

The court in Belgrade rejected appeals from the three appellants, who served in the notorious Scorpions unit during the 1999-2000 Kosovo war. A retrial was ordered for a fourth defendant.

The massacre in Kosovo's northern town of Podujevo took place at the start of a NATO bombing campaign launched against Serbia to stop a Belgrade crackdown on Albanian separatists.

During the original 2009 trial, survivors described how Scorpions lined up 19 people against a wall in March 1999 and sprayed them with machine-gun fire. Five children survived the massacre, saved only when regular Serbian troops arrived on the scene.

The Scorpions unit operated under the command of the Serbian Interior Ministry during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Domestic war crimes trials in Serbia only became possible after the ouster of autocratic Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Milosevic died in 2006, while on trial in The Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The declaration is recognized by more than 60 nations, including the United States and most countries of the European Union.