Korenicë

27. April 1999.

The village of Korenicë/Korenica is situated about seven kilometres to the west of Gjakovë/Đakovica town, on the road connecting Gjakovë/Đakovica with Junik. It was inhabited mainly by Catholic KosovoAlbanians. The only Serb family living in the village were the Mićunovićs.On 27 April 1999, members of the PJP and the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr killed 68 Kosovo Albanian civilians in Korenicë/Korenica.

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Military and police documents and testimonies of VJ members conclusively indicate that the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr, MUP forces and, most probably, the PJP 73rd Territorial Detachment were active in Korenicë/Korenica on the day when the crimes were committed.57 The ICTY established that mixed VJ and MUP forces – the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr and PJP – and paramilitaries were engaged on 27 April in Korenicë/Korenica, where they “killed a number of Kosovo Albanian men”.

According to the war diary of the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr, this battalion from 26 to 29 April 1999 took part in Operation Reka and in the blockade of Mejë/Meja and Korenicë/Korenica villages.

In accordance with the assignment given to them by the PrC on 26 April, the battalion “blocked off the wider area of the village of Korenica” at 06.00 hours of 27 April. Since 05.00 hours, the command post of the 2nd Motorised Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr had been operating in an abandoned house belonging to Spasoje Vukčević, situated between Korenicë/Korenica and Gjakovë/Đakovica .

In his witness statements before the ICTY, Vlatko Vuković, the Commander of the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr, said that for blocking-off the wider area of Korenicë/Korenica he used “three rifle platoons, […] a Military Police platoon, a Communications Department and a Medical Service Department”. In another statement given to the ICTY, Vuković said that for the purpose of blocking the wider area of Korenicë/Korenica, he had formed a “combat group“.

According to Vuković, members of his unit wore green camouflage uniforms, and sometimes red ribbons on their shoulders [see the murder of the M. family].

The war diary of the 2nd Motorized Battalion describes an event which supposedly took place at the time of the events discussed here in the immediate vicinity of the place where, according to survivors’ testimonies, male members of the P. and D.families were last seen alive in the custody of members of Serbian forces in blue and green camouflage uniforms. This entry in the war diary in fact confirms the presence of this unit near the village cemetery, which lies some 150 metres from the petrol station in Korenicë/Korenica, at the time when the men from the P. and D. were last seen alive (around 9 a.m.).

The presence of the 2nd Motorized Battalion near the cemetery was also confirmed by its commander, Vlatko Vuković, who said before the ICTY that KLA members from within a group of 50 civilians fired at around 8:30 a.m. on his unit near the cemetery, wounding two soldiers. Vuković also said that during the evacuation of these two wounded soldiers, VJ members were fired at from some nearby houses. The commander of the platoon which was located at the village cemetery in Korenicë/Korenica was Sublieutenant Dragan Mitić.

The presence of the 2nd Motorized Battalion at the cemetery was also confirmed by a member of this brigade who took part in the evacuation of the two wounded soldiers, and who testified under protective measures before the ICTY [witness K90]. However, contrary to Vuković’s accounts, this soldier stated that it was members of the MUP who fired on the soldiers, saying that he had obtained that information from soldiers who were present near the cemetery. Vuković’s testimony regarding who opened fire on VJ members is also in contradiction with the accounts in the 2nd Motorized Battalion’s war diary – the entry for 27 April 1999, which states that a person from within a group of civilians who were near the cemetery in Korenicë/Korenica opened fire on VJ members, making no mention at all of what Vuković said in the second part of his statement, that fire was opened from nearby houses. The contradiction between the evidence given by Vlatko Vuković before the ICTY and the accounts in the war diary of the 2nd Battalion was noted by the ICTY as well.

Members of the 2nd Battalion of 549th MtBr VJ stated that members of the MUP were also engaged in Korenicë/Korenica, but they did not say which unit it was. A member of the Military Police of this Battalion [witness K90] stated that around 7 o’clock in the morning about 10 buses arrived in Korenicë/ Korenica with 30-40 policemen in each, most of them from the direction of Gjakovice/Đakovica.

According to the conclusions reached by the ICTY, the 73rd PJP Detachment was operating in Korenicë/Korenica. Namely, according to the documents of the VJ 125th MtBr, the 73rd PJP Detachment was deployed in Korenicë/Korenica on 24 and 25 April 1999.

Witness K90 (member of the Military Police of the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the 549th MtBr) stated that around 8 o’clock in the morning he saw from the command post of his unit, which was located around 100-150 meters away from the first houses, that the houses had been burnt. He notified Major Vlatko Vuković, Commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 549th MtBr, about the burnt houses.

Testifying before the ICTY under protection measures [witness K73], a member of the VJ Special Unit said that on 28 April he found members of the PJP in Korenicë/Korenica, and saw houses of local residents in flames. When he asked one of the PJP members where the Albanians were, he was told that they had been “sent out on a trip”.

In the statements they gave before the ICTY, the Commander and some members of the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr claimed that it was only in late 2001 that they learned about the crimes in Korenicë/Korenica, from the book “As Seen, as Told”, published by the HLC.