News 03 Jul 13

EU Keeps Kosovo War Crimes Witness File Secret

The EU rule-of-law mission has rejected a court’s request to see a classified file on the key witness in a high-profile war crimes case against former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters.

Edona Peci

The EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, said it would not give the Pristina court access to the psychological report on Agim Zogaj, known as ‘Witness X’, whose evidence is seen as key to the prosecution, on the grounds that the document is classified.

“All operational files related to witness X and, in fact, all other things this department possesses or has dealt with are classified as EU secrets,” said a letter sent by the head of the EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX’s witness protection department to the presiding judge in the case, which has been seen by BIRN.

Zogaj was a guard at the ‘Klecka’ prison where the former KLA fighters on trial are alleged to have abused Serb and Albanian detainees.

Zogaj’s statements and diaries are seen as crucial evidence after he was found dead in a park in Germany in September 2011.

However, EULEX declined to provide the court with more details about the Witness X file, saying this would not be in line with a European Council decision on confidential information held by the EU.

The letter to the presiding judge said that declassifying the file would “create a dangerous precedent for other qualified documents”.

The EU prosecutor in the Klecka case, Maurizio Salustro, asked the court to look into other ways of assessing Zogaj’s psychological state.

“I understand these documents are classified, but what if we ask the psychologist who produced the report for a new assessment especially for the court?” Salustro suggested.

But defendant Fatmir Limaj, a former KLA commander, said that “an old report which was drafted while the witness was alive cannot be compared to a new one”.

Limaj, a lawmaker with Kosovo’s ruling Democratic Party, is one of ten suspects on trial over the Klecka jail and alleged war crimes against civilians.

According to the indictment, Limaj and the other co-defendants, also former KLA fighters, “violated the bodily integrity and health of an unspecified number of Serb and Albanian civilians and Serb prisoners of war”.

Albanian civilians suspected of collaboration with the Serbian regime, Serbian civilians and Serbian police and military personnel were allegedly detained at Klecka, which according to the indictment also served as a detention centre for KLA soldiers investigated or sentenced for disciplinary offences.

Limaj was initially acquitted of the charges in May last year but the prosecution successfully appealed against the verdict and the case was sent for a retrial.

In a previous trial at the Hague Tribunal in 2005, Limaj was acquitted of war crimes against Serbs and Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbia during the Kosovo war and returned home to a hero’s welcome.

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