Vlajic: Calling someone who was not convicted a war criminal is a criminal act

Nebojša Vlajić, advokat
Foto: KoSSev – Nebojša Vlajić, advokat

The fact that Pristina officials, the opposition, analysts, and even the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, referred to Oliver Ivanovic as a war criminal is a criminal act, lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic assessed for KoSSev today. Vlajic also emphasized that they are talking about a man who was never convicted.

On January 21st, 2016, Oliver Ivanovic was sentenced to nine years in prison for „war crimes“ committed in 1999. He was tried according to a joint indictment which included retired colonel of the Serbian MIA, Dragoljub Delibasic, Ilija and Nebojsa Vujacic, as well as Aleksandar Lazovic, all of whom were acquitted.

In February 2017, the Kosovo Appellate Court returned the proceedings to a retrial, and the verdict was never finalised because Ivanovic was killed on January 16th, 2018. Ivanovic was also charged with crimes from 2000 but was acquitted of those charges.

Vlajic reminded of this today: „He was sentenced to nine years in prison for one offense, and for the other, he was acquitted and the Appellate Court confirmed it, and sent him back for a new trial only for this one offense. The judgment by which he was convicted was revoked, he was not convicted in any proceedings and he must be viewed as innocent.“

The lawyer also commented on the statements of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti on the fifth anniversary of the murder of the Kosovo Serb politician – in which he praised Ivanovic, despite previously referring to him as a war criminal – assessing that „from a political, his (cf.Kurti’s) point of view, it’s useless“.

„For him to praise someone who was tried for war crimes, that is politically inappropriate,“ says Vlajic, adding that what Kurti said „is neither prohibited, nor offensive, nor punishable.“

On the other hand, he reiterated that calling someone who was never convicted of war crimes a war criminal presents a criminal act.

It is also wrong from a moral point of view

He also addressed media reports about the statements of the witnesses at Oliver Ivanovic’s trial, who reacted to Kurti’s statements on Ivanovic:

„Whatever they said, the Appellate Court, upon our appeal, said that the truth was not established beyond doubt and sent the case back for a retrial.“

He underlined that the truth, impartiality and objectivity of the statements of these witnesses are questionable, because – „If the higher court shared this opinion, it would not have revoked the verdict.“

It is easy to say things now, as dead men tell no tales, but when they were in the courtroom in front of him, they did not accuse him, but most of them complimented him. I don’t know who is saying differently now, but that was not the case at the trial

„The Appellate Court did not give credence to the statements of those witnesses, but ordered a retrial. They also attended the new hearing and testified again. But the verdict was never made, precisely because Oliver was killed,“ he said.

Addressing the claims of Isa Mustafa, one of the five witnesses, who said that he allegedly „saw and heard Oliver“ in April 1999 in Mitrovica, when dozens of Albanians were killed, Vlajic specified that the other four, although they knew Ivanovic, neither saw nor heard him.

„What kind of abilities does Isa Mustafa have to be able to see and hear what others did not?“ – asked Vlajic.

Isa Mustafa, the key witness at the trial, changed his testimony about Oliver Ivanovic and the events in Mitrovica in 1999, for which Ivanovic was accused, several times. At a hearing in January 2015, he said that paramilitary units were present, headed by Ivanovic, however, the very next day he claimed that he made no mention of the units, but that he was referring to the uniforms. In 2000, Mustafa alleged that Ivanovic put on the mask immediately after he witnessed a group of Albanians approaching the checkpoint. On January 22nd, 2015, he said that Ivanovic actually put on the mask two minutes after spotting the Albanians. In the original version of his first statement, Mustafa stated that the person who saved him from execution on April 14th was wearing a police uniform, and on January 22nd, 2015, he claimed that the person was actually wearing a military uniform. In earlier statements, this same witness declared that his hands were tied when he was with the other Albanians, but during his testimony on January 22nd, he swore that their hands were not tied, but that they were behind their necks. Also, in a statement from 2000, while describing the events, Mustafa said that Ivanovic was sitting on the steps when the Albanians came to the checkpoint, only to claim fifteen years later that Oliver was standing together with the uniformed persons.

Tefik Sejdiu said yesterday that Ivanovic bought cigarettes from his family at the time of the massacre in Mitrovica, and that he saw him „taking members of his family,“ as reported by Gazeta Express.

According to Vlajic, these are plain lies, and the witnesses did not reveal that during the trial.

He also reminded that Oliver Ivanovic was not a smoker.

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