EULEX police have arrested on Thursday morning three Kosovo Albanians suspected of war crimes against civilians committed during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.
EU Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo, EULEX, told BIRN that the case is being investigated by the Special Prosecutorial Office, but it did not give details about the charges.
“EULEX police arrested three persons in an operation this morning [Thursday]. The suspects are charged with war crimes against the civilian population,” was all that Blerim Krasniqi, EULEX’s spokesperson, said.
The three arrested men are believed to be ex Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, fighters from the Drenica region, a former KLA heartland.
BIRN learns that police raided several houses connected to the suspects in the village of Llaush, the municipality of Skenderaj, and in Pristina.
According to police sources, two of the suspects are now members of the Kosovo Security Force, KSF.
The KLA War Veterans Association, OVLUCK, protested the arrests describing it as EULEX’s “witch-hunt against former KLA fighters“.
“Although the European Mission failed to prove war crimes claims against the KLA soldiers in previous cases, it still continues, with spectacular arrests, to distract the public opinion from the failures it had as an international organization in fulfilling its duties and mandate,” reads the OVLUCK’s press release.
The war veterans association called upon the EU mission to immediately release the arrested men, and advised it “to hunt down Serb criminals operating in the north of Kosovo instead.”
The 1998 – 1999 conflict in Kosovo between Serb security forces and the insurgent Kosovo Liberation Army, claimed around 10,000 victims, the majority Kosovo Albanians.
The war ended after a 78-day NATO air-bombing campaign in 1999 that ousted Serb armed forces from the province, which was then put under UN administration.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 which is not recognised by Belgrade.