News 15 Aug 17

Kosovo Ex-Guerrilla’s Torture Sentence Reduced

Kosovo Liberation Army ex-fighter Xhemshit Krasniqi, who was convicted of abuse and torture at detention camps in Kosovo and Albania, had his prison sentence reduced on appeal to seven years.

BIRN
Pristina
Xhemshit Krasniqi. Photo: Kallxo.com

Kosovo’s appeals court has reduced former guerrilla Xhemshit Krasniqi’s war crimes sentence from eight to seven years in prison, according to a judgment that became public on Tuesday.

The appeals court, whose decision was handed down on June 22, said it had partially amended the original judgment by “reclassifying the crimes that the accused was convicted for as war crimes against individual persons instead of war crimes against civilian population”.

The fine imposed on Krasniqi was also reduced from 1,500 euros to 1,200 euros.

According to the original verdict haded down in August 2016, Krasniqi was found guilty of the “arrest, illegal detention, violation of bodily integrity and health and torture of several witnesses and unknown civilians in the KLA camps in the towns of Kukes and Cahan (Albania), as well as in the town of Prizren (Kosovo) during 1999”.

The verdict said he committed his crimes in collaboration with other KLA members.

During the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia, from March to June 1999, the KLA, then fighting the Serbian police and military, had a base in the Albanian town of Kukes, from where it launched guerrilla operations across the border in Kosovo.

The KLA also maintained a network of prisons at its bases in Albania and Kosovo during and after the conflict of 1999.

These prisons held Kosovo Albanians suspected of collaboration, as well as Serbs and Roma. Some detainees were tortured and it is also believed that some were killed.

A Council of Europe report from 2011 said KLA fighters used a former metal factory in Kukes and converted it into a multi-purpose facility, including at least two ‘cellblocks’ to house detainees.

The report said the prisoners “were thrown into makeshift cellblocks, left in insanitary conditions without food and water, and were visited periodically by KLA soldiers to be questioned under harsh treatment, or indiscriminately beaten”.

In statements given to UN prosecutors in 2009 and 2010, more than ten people - almost all of them ethnic Albanians - described having been detained indefinitely, hit with sticks and other objects, and subjected to various forms of inhumane treatment at the Kukes site.

Several witnesses said that screams of agony from people held in separate sets of cellblocks could be heard filtering through the corridors.

The Council of Europe report led to a further probe by the EU’s Special Investigative Task Force, and the subsequent establishment of the new, Hague-based Kosovo ‘specialist chambers’, which are expected to start issuing indictments against former KLA guerrillas soon. 

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