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Updated: 2 Sept. 1999 KFOR Press Statements

Continental
Hotel,
Skopje
15h00

30 Aug. 1999

KFOR Statement

on road traffic accidents on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 August in FYROM (1)

As you all know, there were two tragic road traffic accidents this weekend. Today I would like to give you as much factual information as possible to allay some of the rumours that have been reported. You will realise that both accidents are currently under investigation and that the facts have not yet been established by a court of law.

Let me first say that all road accidents are tragic and there is no doubt that the accident on Saturday which resulted in the deaths of Minister without Portfolio, Mr Radovan Stojkovski and members of his family is especially tragic and it deeply regretted. Letters of condolences have been sent by MG Guiseppe Giovanetti, the Deputy Commander of KFOR here in Macedonia and Lt Gen. Sir Mike Jackson, Commander KFOR in Pristina. KFOR wishes the Minister's son Stojan a full recovery. The second accident on Sunday involving Mr Rechi Havzi is also very much regretted and KFOR trust that he will also make a full recovery.

However, tragic as they are, I would like to put these accidents into context. Since February this year, there have been many, many thousands of vehicle movements not only in Macedonia itself, but also travelling between Thessaloniki and Kosovo in support of the international security mission in Kosovo. In relation to this very large number of military traffic movements there have been very few accidents. Most accidents involving military vehicles have been minor and before yesterday's accident, 4 people died. However, this is not a cause for complacency and every death is tragic. KFOR and National representatives of forces stationed in Macedonia are fully aware of the need to seek further reduction in the number of accidents. This includes additional driver awareness training and notification of accident black spots.

Let me now give you some details on the accident late Saturday morning. The 2 officers had left the Norwegian camp near Petrovac on an authorised duty trip bound for Pristina. For some reason they took a wrong turning and were heading south towards Veles. South of Katlanovo the mistake was realised and it seems the driver thought he was on a normal road with a single carriageway in each direction, having lost sight of the north bound highway carriageway. At about 1030, he turned back on the same carriageway and was heading north in the right hand lane of what thought was a normal road, but in fact is the overtaking lane of the south bound carriageway. Before he could stop and correct the error, a head collision resulted between the minivan and a Macedonia Ministry car at approximately 1045. This car had been travelling south in the overtaking lane of the highway. The LPD Minister without Portfolio, Mr Radovan Stojkovski, his wife Rumena and daughter Despina were killed. The driver, Vojislav Pavlov was badly injured and the Minister's son, Stojan was slightly injured. The two Norwegian officers, a Lt. Col. and a Capt. were injured.

Shortly after 1225, two KFOR MPs arrived on the scene, followed shortly afterwards by a second MP team and a KFOR doctor and ambulance. By this time the Macedonian casualties had been removed from the accident scene by the civilian authorities. The KFOR officers had not received medical attention.

The Norwegian doctor assessed the situation and acting under normal military procedures began evacuating the military casualties to a military hospital. In this case the British Military Hospital at Lipljan, Kosovo was determined the most appropriate as the Lt Col was complaining about chest pains and a the driver was in a state of severe shock. The British Military Police assumed jurisdiction of the incident in accordance with the Basic Agreement, the NATO SOFA and the PfP SOFA.

It would appear that there was some confusion between the Macedonian and KFOR police over jurisdiction but after some negotiation, it was agreed that the passenger would be flown to the KFOR military hospital in Lipjan, Kosovo and the driver would remain in Macedonia.

The driver was taken to the University Hospital in a state of shock and placed under medical supervision. The KFOR Legal Advisor visited him late on Saturday evening to advise him on the legal process. A letter from DCOM KFOR to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Justice was acknowledged by the Macedonian authorities on Saturday afternoon. (Post briefing note: Sunday afternoon) This letter requested that the driver be handed over into the custody to the KFOR Military in accordance with the Basic Agreement, the NATO SOFA and PfP SOFA. On the afternoon 29 Aug., he was removed from hospital by the Macedonian authorities and placed in detention. A civil lawyer was appointed by the investigating judge, but access by the KFOR lawyer and the Norwegian Charge d' Affairs was not approved. The Norwegian Charge d"Affairs was permitted to visit the officer this morning. A formal written request for the KFOR legal advisor to visit has been made to the Investigating Judge and the Ministry of Justice and the response is still awaited.

The issue of jurisdiction is still unresolved. The Norwegian servicemen were on duty and had been authorised to travel from their National Support Element to Pristina. In accordance with the Basic Agreement, which includes elements of the NATO SOFA and PfP SOFA, signed between the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and NATO, the sending nation had jurisdiction. Norway is the sending nation and therefore retains responsibility for the investigation and any possible resulting legal action.

The second accident occurred at about midday on Sunday half way between Eurotrade and the border with Kosovo. A KFOR convoy consisting of 4 UK vehicles was heading north to the border at Blace. The trailer of one of the trucks became disconnected and ran across the road onto the opposite carriageway. It hit an oncoming Macedonian civil car that caused serious injuries to the civilian driver. When the Military Police arrived on the scene at 1255 hours, the Macedonian Police were already in attendance. The civilian driver had already been taken to the hospital. Under the supervision of a Macedonian doctor, the British soldiers had already administered medical aid including morphine. The driver of the UK truck was uninjured and is back wit his unit in Pristina. KFOR has full jurisdiction in this matter and an investigation is currently under way.

I would like to end by repeating that we all deeply regret the tragic events of the last 2 days. We are all very much aware of the invaluable support that Macedonia has provided to the KFOR forces conducting the security mission in Kosovo. The support of Macedonian people and their government has been vital to NATO operations to bring about a lasting peace and a free and democratic society in Kosovo. We are most grateful for the co-operation and good will shown to us since our arrival in February and indeed to NATO forces of the KVCC and the Extraction Force before us. We hope that this one tragedy will not be allowed sour our otherwise good relations.

Channel 5: Could you give an overview of all the accidents in MK, which included NATO? Plus, what happened to the USA soldier who had an accident in Kumanovo in which two people were killed?

Answer: It is difficult to get all the figures since the different nations are not under a direct control of NATO. Instead, NATO has a coordinating function. Many small accidents have not even been reported. However, until 3 September we should have a full list of accidents that occurred on the territory of MK and included NATO vehicles. As far the American solder is concerned, do you mean the accident in front of the tunnel?

Channel 5: No, not that one, the one at the village Stracin when 2 people were ran down by an American soldier.

Answer: I have no information about this accident.

Norwegian Newspaper: Do you have information about any charges being brought against the Norwegian driver?

Answer: I have no information yet, but it's been confirmed just before the beginning of this press conference that a Norwegian representative got the right to visit the captain.

Norwegian Newspaper: Is KFOR doing anything to free him?

Answer: Yes, we are doing our best to free him. The Deputy Secretary-General called for the MK Ambassador to NATO to call him at 11 today. We still don't know the results of this conversation, but we know that this accident raised high political interest.

Nova Makedonija: Can you give me the precise figure of claims received by NATO Claims Office and how many of these have been settled so far?

Answer: NATO Claims Office received various claims. Some 120 claims out of approximately 300 received were settled.

Telma TV: What has NATO done so far in order to make their soldiers more aware of the rights they have in MK?

Answer: Our soldiers have no intention of breaking MK's rules and regulations and we are constantly reminding them to respect these rules. We will continue to push for the personnel to respect MK standards.

Telma TV: I would like to know, what it is that you are actually doing to make your soldiers aware of MK rules?? I want to hear something concrete.

Answer: I have no specific details for that.

Norwegian News Agency: How long it took before the officers got medical care attention? Who will have the jurisdiction over the Officer?

Answer: It took about several hours. About 2 hours before the first doctor arrived and 2-3 hours before the officer was transferred to Lipljan. When and if released he will be taken into military custody and Norway should than lead this case.

MTV (Macedonian Television): Could you explain to us why was he transferred to Lipljan to a hospital with poor conditions instead of being taken to our very good Military Clinical Center?

Answer: It is a normal practice for the military personnel to be treated in a military hospital. The Colonel was complaining on chest pain and was sent to Lipljan by the Norwegian doctor.

(Agency not specified): Did MK Government claim jurisdiction over the two accidents that happened this weekend?

Answer: They didn't claim jurisdiction over the second accident at Blace, and according to the agreement with NATO, NATO has the jurisdiction.

Makfaks: We heard that MK Minister of Interior will demand a restriction of helicopter night flights and organized transit convoy movements through MK.

Answer: I haven't heard of it.

A1: This morning on BBC news there was a statement issued, as they said, from the PIC in Skopje, that the reason for the accident was that the highway was not well marked. The second question is, has there been an agreement between KFOR and MK for a joint investigation?

Answer: I haven't heard this thing on BBC. Such information wasn't issued from my Press Center for sure. I cannot comment on the road signs because I am not familiar with that road.
To answer your second question, there is no agreement for a joint investigation.

Reuters: According to MK Interior Ministry press release there was a serious incident between KFOR and MK police. Apart of the agreement for the soldiers not be moved, the Norwegian soldier was taken to Petrovec in order to be transferred to Pristina.

Answer: There was some disagreement in the beginning. Than it was agreed that the driver would remain in MK. I am not going to comment on this any further.

Nova Makedonija: According to MK Foreign Ministry, the driver's unit is in Pristina? Plus, can the agreement between MK and NATO be valid.

Answer: The agreement was signed in MK and covers activity in MK.

MTV (Albanian Program): You said it took several hours before helping the soldiers. Why? Is there an agreement that they cannot be given any aid before the authorities come, or MK Government didn't want to help them?

Answer: There is no such agreement for not helping anyone in trouble. If somebody can and wants to, he should help anybody, anywhere, any time.

A1: In the beginning you have agreed that a blood analysis of the driver should be done. Driving towards the hospital KFOR vehicle suddenly turned. Why?
Second question, why did KFOR agree to return him to MK Government when, as you already said, your soldiers have immunity and you will have the jurisdiction in your hands. Why than returning him to MK at all?

Answer: There has been some confusion. However the driver was then returned to Skopje and a blood analysis was made.

Footnote:

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

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