The trial of Svetomir Bacevic at Pristina Basic Court on Thursday. Photo: BIRN.

Kosovo Serb Jailed for Mistreating Couple During War

A Kosovo court has jailed Svetomir Bacevic for five years for taking a Kosovo Albanian woman from her home and mistreating her in the Peja/Pec municipality during the war in 1998.

Kosovo Serb Svetomir Bacevic, 57, was convicted of war crimes during the Kosovo war of 1998-1999 war by the Prishtina Basic Court on Thursday.

He has been jailed for five years, including time in custody.

Bacevic, who has been in detention since December 2020, was found guilty of seizing a 60-year-old ethnic Albanian from her home in the village of Bellopje/Belo Polje in the Peja/Pec municipality in the summer of 1998.

The crime was committed when conflict erupted between Serbian forces and the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, in the villages near Bellopje/Belo Polje.

The indictment says that Bellopoje/Belo Polje, around three kilometres from the town of Peja/Pec, was mainly inhabited by Serbs until 1999. Three ethnic Albanian families who were living there fled the village when the conflict began in 1998, and only a couple in their sixties, Rexhep and Tigje Kadrija, decided to stay.

The indictment said Bacevic entered Rexhep and Tigje Kadrija’s house and “initially fired with machine gun at the roof and windows, damaging them”.

“He entered the house under the pretext that he was searching for other people and, under threat of arms, he took the victims into the yard and mistreated them physically and psychologically by ordering them several times to sit down and stand up,” it says.

“Threatening them with the gun, [Bacevic] then took Tigje to the street and told Rexhep that he was taking his wife to the military and police headquarters and that he would only bring her back after he [Rexhep] brought KLA members to the headquarters,” it adds.

The indictment says that in the evening, Bacevic took Tigje Kadrija to the centre of the village and stopped near a market where many other people were present “with the purpose of humiliating her”.

“At that moment, the victim’s neighbour, Momcilo Savic, arrived at the scene and clashed with the defendant, punching him, and reaching out to save the victim and bring her home. Next day, [Savic] took both victims in secrecy from Bellopoje/Belo Polje, giving them the opportunity to go to Peja/Pec,” the indictment adds.

Tigje Kadrija, who according to the indictment could not identify the defendant, is on the list of witnesses proposed by the prosecution. Rexhep died in 2002.

Bacevic has lived in Gornji Milanovac in Serbia since the end of the war in Kosovo in June 1999.

Media reports said he was detained when he went back to Kosovo to get his personal documents.

The Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo condemned the arrest, saying it was part of “a campaign of intimidation of Serbs in Kosovo”.

08/09/2022 - 16:06

08 September 2022 - 16:06

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