20. March 1999.

The town of Srbica/Skënderaj is located in the centre of the municipality, of the same name, south of the Mitrovica/Mitrovicë-Peć/Pejë main road. Srbica/Skënderaj had some 4,000 citizens in 1999, 91% of whom were Kosovo Albanian and 5% were Serbs. On March, 20th, Serbian forces killed 29 Kosovo Albanians civilians.

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Strictly confidential documents of the Yugoslav Army (YA) point to the engagement of the 125th motorized brigade (MtBr) in the operations that took place on March 20th 1999 in the town of Srbica/Skënderaj.

According to documents from the Priština Corps, the 1st Combat Group of the 125th MtBr was engaged between September 20th and 21st 1998 alongside MUP forces. “The idea for conducting an operation to defeat the SHTF [Shiptar Terrorist Forces] in the sector of Northern Drenica and Podujevo” was issued by the Priština Corps Command on March 18th, 1999 and states the following:

BG-125-1 [Combat Group 1 125th MtBr] with MUP, and with mb/252nd ArBr [Mechanized Battalion of the 252nd Armoured Brigade][forces are being engaged] on the axis – Srbica – Poljance – G.Prekaz … time of execution: March 20th and 21st, 1999.”

Combat Group 1 of the 125th MtBr also received an instruction on engagement in the operation in Srbica/Skënderaj at the order of the Joint Command for Kosovo and Metohija. The“Order on Engagement of Forces on Combating Terrorists in Kosovo and Metohija” was issued by the Joint Command on March 19th 1999. The 125th MtBr was ordered to:

“in coordinated action with the 37th MtBr and MUP forces, to unblock the axis Klina-Srbica and the town of Srbica.”

It was determined that the firearm factory in Srbica/Skënderaj would be the Command Post of the 125th MtBr.

Testifying before the ICTY in the Šainović et al. case, the Commander of the 125th MtBr Dragan Živanović confirmed that the 125th MtBr participated in the operation in Srbica/Skënderaj on March 20th1999. He said that his brigade had participated in the attack on Srbica/Skënderaj. However, when the Prosecution referred to the Order of March 19th 1999, where the “unblocking of the town” of Srbica/Skënderaj was presented as a task of the 125th MtBr, Živanović stated:

“Yes. I received the order from the Corps Command. This task seems illogical to me. It states 125th Motorized Brigade. This means the entire Brigade. So, I already doubt that I have really seen this order. I expected to see 125th MtBr with, BG-1 [Combat Group 1], BG-2 [Combat Group 2] written in parenthesis. I do not know, was the order tampered with?”

The orders of the Joint Command from March 19th 1999 contained the following order: “Encourage need for a fair treatment of the loyal civilian population …”

This command represents a violation of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, which prescribe absolute/general protection of civilian population and prohibit the adverse distinction between civilians on any grounds.

This type of instruction appeared in a number of orders relating to the operations of the 125th MtBr.