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The anniversary of the bombing of Radio Television of Serbia: Investigation incomplete after 18 years

To date, it remains unclear why the headquarters of Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was not evacuated during the bombing, why all those responsible have not been prosecuted, who knew that RTS would be the target of NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, and how is it possible that a media house was a legitimate target of the bombing. Still, the investigation has not been concluded, and there are no answers to any of the key questions.

N1: Monumet to the killed employees of RTS
Photo: N1 / Monumet to the killed employees of RTS

Even 18 years after NATO bombed the RTS building there are no answers to the key questions of why the personnel were left inside the building on 23 April.

NATO started the operation of bombing Serbia on 24 March 1999 and ended it on 10 June 1999. The operation, which was not approved by the Security Council of the UN, had a goal to stop the conflict between Serbian Security Forces and Albanian minority in Kosovo. The conflict ended with Kumanovo Agreement, which resulted in complete withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo. Numerous Serbian officials were tried and convicted for war crimes committed during the conflict in Kosovo. The leaders of Kosovo Liberation Army who fought against Serbian forces are still under the investigation process.

Unofficial sources claim there was information that NATO would bomb the building of RTS in April 1999. According to one version, this was already known in October 1998 with the first announcements of the bombing of Serbia.

According to another version, RTS was added to the target list prior to the bombing in 1999.

Families of 16 killed employees of RTS accused the Government of Serbia at the time and the regime of strongman Slobodan Milosevic that they knew RTS would be bombed and that they were warned by NATO.

Only Dragoljub Milanovic, the director of RTS at the time, was trialed and convicted for the death of 16 employees. It has never been discovered who else knew the building was a target but did nothing to warn and save the employees of RTS.

According to the claim of Zanka Stojanovic, the mother of killed RTS employee Nebojsa Stefanovic, the Public Prosecution promised in 2011 that they will start the process against those responsible, but that never happened.

“Since there is no new evidence, the Prosecutor told us he cannot do anything. He also said he would not close the case, apparently, out of respect for the families. That is just an excuse to prevent the families from bringing this case before international courts,” said Stojanovic on Friday.

There is a possibility of family members turning to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasburg, which could order the Serbian Courts a more efficient investigation. However, the family members first have to appeal to the Constitutional Court of Serbia.

Commemoration for the killed employees of RTS

On Sunday at 2:06 a.m., families, friends, and colleagues paid their respect to the killed in NATO bombing of RTS. One of the speakers at the commemoration, Milorad Medic, said that it was the first time in history that a media house was declared a legitimate bombing target, despite the fact that the military leadership knew that there were between 150 and 160 people working in the RTS building.

In the NATO attack on 22. and 23. April, Jelica Munitlak (27), Ksenija Bankovic (27), Darko Stoimenovski (25), Nebojsa Stojanovic (26), Dragorad Dragojevic (27), Dragan Tasic (29), Aleksandar Deletic (30), Slavisa Stevanovic (32), Sinisa Medic (32), Ivan Stukalo (33), Dejan Markovic (39), Milan Joksimovic (47), Branislav Jovanovic (50), Milovan Jankovic (59), Tomislav Mitrovic (61) i Slobodan Jontic (54) were killed.

Medic said the RTS employees were killed because they were not protected and cared for except by their families. Medic referred to the leadership of RTS at the time saying that those who were obliged by law to protect them, failed in doing their duty.

Dragoljub Milanovic, the Director of RTS at the time of bombing, served a 10-year sentence for knowing that the building would be bombed and not evacuating the employees.

While giving her verdict, Judge Radmila Dicic said that Milanovic had enough indications that the building would be bombed. She also said that the bombing of the RTS building was preceded by bombing of other media outlets in Serbia by NATO, and not a single person was killed.

After Milanovic was sentenced in 2002, he fled to Montenegro where he was arrested in the action “Saber” in 2003.
On the day of his arrest, the police stated that Milanovic had close connections to the so-called “Zemun Clan,” a criminal group that organized the assassination of the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003.

After serving his sentence, Milanovic has not made any public appearances. In March, a month before the anniversary of the bombing, he gave one interview claiming that he is the real victim of democratic changes in Serbia.

 

Irena Stevic

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