Operations for establishing combat control of the territory and the ‘clearing-up of the battlefield’
The Command of the 37th mtbr issued a Defence Order, Operation number 125-2”, signed by the Commander of the 37th mtbr, Ljubiša Diković. According to the order, the task of the 37th mtbr was to “set up defence in the Kukavica (tt. 591 exclusive) - Gradina (tt.1055 inclusive) – Goleš pass (exclusive) - Suvo Brdo (tt.734 inclusive) area” for the purpose of defence against possible attacks launched by NATO forces and the KLA, starting from April 16th,1999”. The village of Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo is located almost in the center of this area.
This Order tasks certain units with establishing control over certain territories in this brigade’s area of responsibility. Hence, the Third Motorized Battalion of the 37th mtbr, along with three other units of the 37th mtbr (armored battalion, engineers battalion, and a mixed antitank-artillery division) and the 15th okbr’s Second Battalion was ordered to take combat control over an area which includes the village of Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo. Namely, “the line from Globare to the village of Bardići”, was set as the right border of the area that would be placed under the control of this unit.
A look at the map shows that the line goes through Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo.
On April 15th, 1999, the 37th mtbr and 15th okbr received an order coming from the Joint Command for Kosovo and Metohija to engage as of April 16th,1999, in a two-day joint operation with MUP units “to break and destroy SHTF” at Mount Čičavica and in the sector of the villages of Vasilevё/Vasiljevo and Dobroshec/Dobroševac.
Regular combat report of the 37th mtbr dated April 16th, 1999 shows that the 37th mtbr had been regulating the movements in the entire area of responsibility of the Brigade as of that day.
It is also stated that the Commander of the 37th mtbr, Ljubiša Diković, attended a meeting held that day, which referred to the operation ordered by the Joint Command to the 37th mtbr and 15th okbr, and that together with the Chief of Staff of the 37th mtbr he carried out a reconnaissance of the terrain. The reconnaissance of the terrain was also attended by the Commanders of the First and Second Armored Battalion of the 15th okbr.
The same report offers an overview of the daily activities undertaken by the 37th mtbr related to the execution of orders issued by the Joint Command to “crush and destroy SHTF”, and it reports that the operation will be continued the following day, that is, April 17th,1999.
The ICTY court records do not contain the combat report of the 37th mtbr dated April 17th, 1999. In December 2014, the HLC requested this document from the Ministry of Defence, but but it refused to provide it.
The entry made by the Commander of the 15th okbr, Mladen Ćirković, in the war diary of this brigade for April 16th and 17th, 1999, confirms the participation of units of the 15th okbr in the ‘clearing up of the territory’ operations at Čičavica.
According to the MUP’s document dated April 17th, 1999, the 3rd Company of the 86th Detachment of the PJP was engaged in Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo on April 17th, 1999.
The 4th Company of the 86th Detachment of the PJP was deployed that same day in the neighboring village of Poklek. The 1st and the 2nd Companies were deployed in the direction of Llapushnik/Lapušnik – Arllat/Orlate – Durdica/Đurđica and Gllogoc/Glogovac – Poluzhё/Poluža, at an approximate distance of 2 to 10 km from Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo, while the 5th Company was positioned in the Feronikl factory in Gllogoc/Glogovac.
Bodies under the jurisdiction of the Clearing-up Squad of the 37th mtbr
There are no public military or police documents pointing to the discovery of or actions involving the bodies of the persons who were killed in Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo (on April 17th) by members of the VJ or the MUP or the civilian government authorities. Still, military documents and the testimony of a police official do point to the fact that the clearing-up of the battlefield during the time in question in the Municipality of Gllogoc/Glogovac was under the jurisdiction of the 37th mtbr. According to the order issued by the PrC, each of the VJ brigades was responsible for the clearingup in its area of responsibility.
The Clearing-up Squad of the 37th mtbr was established on April 5th, 1999 (12 days prior to the crime committed in Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo), with the task to collect information on the killed and to report thereon to the responsible investigation authorities.
In early June, when the bodies were, according to the statements given by the witnesses, exhumed and taken away from the village, Çikatovё e Vjetёr/Staro Čikatovo was in the area of responsibility of the 37th mtbr.
The former Chief of the Department of the Interior in Gllogoc/Glogovac, Petar Damjanac, testified before the ICTY that the VJ was the one responsible in this municipality for the clearing-up, and that he maintained contact for this purpose with the Commander of the Clear-up Squad of the 37th mtbr, Rade Krsmanović, and his Deputy Hasan Čorbić. He also pointed out in his testimony that the MUP Department in Gllogoc/Glogovac did not carry out the clearing-up because the municipal government in Gllogoc/Glogovac was not operational during the NATO intervention in 1999 in Kosovo, and that they did not have a crisis committee, civil protection or a single truck.
The allegation that the civilian government in Gllogoc/Glogovac was not operational at the time period in question was also confirmed by the report of the 37th mtbr Command on the situation in Gllogoc/Glogovac dated May 3rd, 1999.