Serb families seek damages for sons killed in war

NIS, Yugoslavia, Feb 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) The families of several Yugoslav soldiers killed in Kosovo during NATO's air strikes last year plan to sue the government and the military for financial compensation, their lawyer said on Friday.

Lawyer Milan Stanic said he had been contacted by around 10 families who had decided to follow the example of Dusan and Snezana Vukovic, who blame the authorities for the death of their 20-year-old son Aleksandar.

The Vukovic family is demanding 50 million dinars in compensation for Aleksandar's death while he served as a conscript in Kosovo last April. The amount equals about $1.2 million under the black market dinar rate.

"After the first case, about 10 other families have called me and authorized me to represent them in the same cases," Stanic told Reuters, speaking at a court hearing in the Vukovic case in the southern Serbian town of Nis.

The military has rejected the basis of the charge, saying the army and its personnel are exempted under law from any material or non-material responsibility during a state of war.

The judge postponed the hearing and gave the army 15 days to respond to the damage request.

NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 11 weeks between March and June to halt Belgrade's repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

The Belgrade government says 2,000 people died in 78 days of NATO air strikes.

Aleksandar's father last year refused to accept a posthumous medal awarded to him, saying Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had sent his son and many others to wars from which they did not return.

Milosevic ceded control over Kosovo to NATO in June after three months of punitive air strikes.