Lovas: Suspects under investigation

War crimes prosecution has opened an investigation against 12 suspects in the 1991 war crimes case.

Source: B92, Beta, Reuters

Serbian police detained the suspects Tuesday. They include four former JNA soldiers, members of local authorities in the village and members of the Dušan Silni paramilitary group.

They are suspected of having taken part in torture, inhuman treatment and murder of some 70 civilians in the eastern Croatian village in October and November 1991.

In the first incident on October 10, the Serbs attacked and captured Lovas killing 22 civilians, Reuters reports.

"A day later they tortured and murdered 12 civilians they had taken prisoner the previous day and killed 11 others in their houses," prosecution spokesman Bruno Vekarić said.

A week later they made 22 people walk over a minefield.

"They all died," Vekarić said.

More killings in the days that followed brought the total number of victims to 70.

The prosecution said in a statement that the proceedings leading to the official investigation took two and a half years and were conducted at the prosecution’s request.

During that time, Serbian police (MUP), War Crimes Detection Service and Military Intelligence interviewed more than 50 persons in connection to the case and gathered a large volume of material evidence.

Earlier Wednesday, B92 learned that Petronije Stevanović, whom numerous witnesses identified as one of the main planners of the crime, was also brought in for questioning.

In a B92 documentary “Lovas”, Ljuban Devetak, another suspect in the case, denied having been involved in the crime and stressed that the Yugoslav Army (JNA) was to be held responsible.

One of the witnesses who appeared in the documentary said that Devetak was familiar with the events in the village and knew how the Army had been treating the locals. The same witness described the event, saying the victims were forced to walk across a minefield, when over 20 of them died.

Ljubomir Devetak's family confirmed to Radio Free Europe that he responded to a police call to give a statement regarding the case, and was remanded in custody.

The detained men are expected to appear before an investigative judge later today.

The investigation into the Lovas case started in October 2005. The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution said at the time it was conducting the probe together with Croatia’s Prosecution.

In 2003, Vukovar’s District Court opened a procedure against Ljuban Devetko and seventeen other suspects, charging them with genocide and mistreatment of civilians in Lovas in the fall of 1991.

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