200 Charged With Kosovo Crimes

Nearly 200 Yugoslav army officers and soldiers have been charged with committing war crimes in Kosovo, and the trials of some have already started, military officials said Tuesday.

The military has previously said that 24 soldiers are facing or have faced legal action on similar charges.

Tuesday's announcement said 183 army members were at some stage in the legal process. The increased numbers reflected growing acceptance on the part of the army that its members committed atrocities against Kosovo Albanians during their crackdown in the southern Serbian province.

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Thousands of ethnic Albanians are believed to have been killed during the Serb crackdown, while hundreds of thousands of civilians were driven from their homes.

The 78-day NATO bombing campaign in 1999 eventually forced the Yugoslav army and the Serb police to withdraw from the province, now under international control. Ousted president Slobodan Milosevic has been indicted by the international war crimes tribunal for alleged Kosovo atrocities.

While denying allegations of a systematic campaign of war crimes in Kosovo, the Yugoslav army has said before that if any of its troops had committed atrocities, they would be brought to justice.

An army statement Tuesday said that the military prosecutor had ordered investigations against, "soldiers, noncommissioned officers and officers … for crimes resulting in deaths and injuries of civilians as well as deprivation of their basic human rights during combat activities in the province of Kosovo in 1998 and 1999."

Beyond the increased figure, no other details were provided.

Last week, army spokesman Col. Svetozar Radisic said military courts have tried or were trying 24 soldiers suspected of war crimes in Kosovo.

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