News 08 Nov 13

Kosovo Ex-Guerrillas Charged With Murder and Torture

Fifteen people including Kosovo’s ambassador to Albania and other former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters have been indicted for alleged war crimes against civilian detainees in 1998.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina
Protesters rallied for the fighters' release in June after their initial arrest. Photo: BIRN

The EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, on Friday charged 15 people with war crimes against prisoners at a KLA detention centre, including Sylejman Selimi, Kosovo’s former security forces commander and its current ambassador to Tirana.

“The defendants are charged with criminal offences of war crimes against the civilian population, including torture, mistreatment of prisoners and murder, allegedly committed in a KLA detention centre in Likovc/Likovac in 1998,” EULEX said in a statement.

A document which appeared to be the indictment, which was seen by BIRN in June, detailed a series of brutal attacks on prisoners held at the improvised detention centre.

As well as Selimi, the defendants include the mayor of the town of Srbica, Sami Lushtaku, and Avni Zabeli, Hysni Thaci, Jahir Demaku and Zeqir Demaku. However the identities of the eight other suspects have not yet been revealed.

The seven named men, members of the so-called ‘Drenica Group’ of wartime fighters, were arrested in May this year and have been in detention on remand since then.

The War Veterans’ Association strongly criticised EULEX over the indictment which it said “touches upon the liberty and the basis of the Kosovo state”.

It urged the EU mission to “stop these politically-motivated processes and free the KLA fighters immediately”.

Their initial arrests sparked a protest in the capital Pristina in June, when demonstrators called for their release and urged the authorities to put an end to EULEX’s mandate in Kosovo.

The prosecution is the third high-profile war-crimes case launched by EULEX since its mission began in 2008.

Three ex-KLA commanders, Latif Gashi, Rrustem Mustafa and Nazif Mehmeti – the so-called ‘Llapi Group’ – were convicted earlier this year of abusing civilian detainees in the Llapashtica/Lapastica prison.

Former KLA commander and transport minister Fatmir Limaj and nine other defendants accused of abusing Serb and Albanian civilians and Serb prisoners of war at the Klecka detention centre were acquitted in September.

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