News 27 Nov 13

Kosovo Ambassador’s Wartime Torture Trial Opens

Pristina’s ambassador to Tirana, Sylejman Selimi, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, went on trial for alleged war crimes against female prisoners during the 1990s conflict.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina
Sylejman Selimi (left) at a Kosovo security forces ceremony. Photo: BIRN

Ambassador Selimi, who is also Kosovo’s former security forces commander, appeared in court in the northern town of Mitrovica with three other defendants on Wednesday but denied committing war crimes.

Selimi is accused of repeatedly assaulting two ethnic Albanian women who were being held at a KLA detention centre in Likovc/Likovac during the conflict at the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999.

“The defendant in the capacity of a high-profile KLA member, in co-perpetration with some other unidentified KLA members, violated the bodily integrity of witness A and witness B, two Albanian civilians, by continuously beating them up,” the indictment said.

However Selimi’s lawyer denied the allegations, saying that “nothing could have happened” to the women in Likovc/Likovac because they were “kidnapped by well-known people” in the village of Vaganica in the Mitrovica region, an area which fell outside Selimi’s command.

The other defendants are Shefki Hyseni, a civilian, and two other former KLA members, Nexhat Qubreli and Ismet Haxha.

The indictment is mainly based on the testimonies of the two female victims from the Mitrovica region, codenamed ‘Witness A’ and ‘Witness B’.

Hyseni is accused of raping Witness A, while Haxha and Qubreli allegedly mistreated both witnesses at a KLA base in Vaganica.

However, Haxha’s defence lawyer Mahmut Halimi told BIRN that his client “had never been to the [Likovc/Likovac] KLA base” and therefore could not have committed the crime.

Selimi also faces another war crimes trial next month in the high-profile ‘Drenica Group’ case.

He and 14 other ex-KLA fighters are accused of a series of other crimes against civilian prisoners at the Likovc/Likovac detention centre. They have denied the charges.

The case against them has sparked protests on the streets of Pristina.

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Background

Timeline – Cuska Case

Timeline of events in the case against 13 former Serb fighters charged with committing war crimes in the villages of Cuska, Zahac, Ljubenic and Pavlac in Kosovo in 1999.

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