Since convicted Kozlina is on the run and the Higher Court has issued a wanted notice for him, we demand that the Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry establish responsibility for the escape of convicted war criminal.
The Defence Ministry, Interior Ministry and Ministry of Justice are obliged to clarify circumstances under which Kozlina has remained employed with the Serbian Army and why he is not serving his sentence.
Convicted war criminal belongs to the prison and not to the institutions responsible for punishing the perpetrators and expressing respect for victims of war crimes. And not the other way round.
According to information published by Radio Free Europe (RFE) on November 7, after his judgement became final, Kozlina nevertheless remained employed with the Serbian Army, which arises from the response the RFE obtained from the Higher Court in Belgrade.
The Ministry of Defence did not reply to RFE’s question about Kozlina’s status at the Serbian Army. Also, to BIRN’s question whether Kozlina used an official border checkpoint to escape from the country, since he failed to report to prison to begin serving his sentence, the Interior Ministry replied on October 29 that “providing such information would mean violation of the right to privacy” and that ‘there is no public interest in providing such information”.
In 2013, the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office raised charges against two members of the Logistics Battalion of the 549th Motorised Brigade of the Yugoslav Army (YA 549th MtBr) – Pavle Gavrilović and Rajko Kozlina for the crime committed in the village of Trnje on March 25, 1999, when at least 31 Albanian civilians were killed, including one pregnant woman and seven children.
On April 1, 2019, the Higher Court in Belgrade rendered the first-instance judgment, acquitting Pavle Gavrilović, while Rajko Kozlina was found guilty and sentenced to the imprisonment of 15 years for this crime. The Court found Rajko Kozlina responsible for murdering 15 and wounding two Albanian civilians in Trnje.
In the second-instance judgment of December 12, 2019, the Court of Appeal rejected the appeals of both Kozlina’s defence counsel and Prosecutor’s Office, thus confirming the first-instance judgment.
Let us remind you, after the passage of the first-instance judgment in the Trnje case, the Humanitarian Law Centre released a statement stressing that the Court prioritised mitigating circumstances it found with respect to Kozlina – him being a family man and the fact that the crime was committed 20 years ago – over the fact that Kozlina mercilessly killed women and children.
Although the Defense Ministry said today that Rajko Kozlina’s professional military service ended on March 16, 2020, it remains unclear who and in what way has made it possible for Kozlina not to be serving his sentence.
Let us remind you, the judgment against Kozlina was dispatched to the Second Basic Court in Belgrade, responsible for its enforcement, in February this year. This Court has failed to reply to RFE’s question whether and what kind of actions they have taken in the case of Rajko Kozlina.
Having in mind that the Interior Ministry did not reply to BIRN’s question regarding Kozlina’s crossing of the border, we demand that the Justice Ministry and Interior Ministry end a conspiracy of silence, and prosecute persons who made it possible for Kozlina to avoid prison.
The arrest of Rajko Kozlina should be an absolute priority of Serbian judicial and security authorities, instead of current practice of glorifying convicted war criminals and rewarding them by letting them escape justice.