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1st Kosovar Albanian arrested on war crime charges

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers, based in The Hague, said former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Salih Mustafa was arrested based on a “warrant, transfer order and confirmed indictment issued by a pre-trial judge.” The court's statement did not identify the charges on which he was indicted. The court said Mustafa would be transferred to its detention facilities in The Hague and "appear before the pre-trial judge without undue delay.” He is the first ethnic Albanian to be arrested on war crimes charges arising from the 1990s conflict.

PTI | Pristina | Updated: 24-09-2020 19:52 IST | Created: 24-09-2020 19:39 IST
1st Kosovar Albanian arrested on war crime charges
Representative image. Image Credit: Wikimedia

A special international court said Thursday that a former commander of the separatist fighters in Kosovo's 1998-1999 war has been arrested as part of a war crimes and crimes against humanity probe stemming from the conflict with Serbia. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers, based in The Hague, said former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Salih Mustafa was arrested based on a "warrant, transfer order and confirmed indictment issued by a pre-trial judge." The court's statement did not identify the charges on which he was indicted.

The court said Mustafa would be transferred to its detention facilities in The Hague and "appear before the pre-trial judge without undue delay." He is the first ethnic Albanian to be arrested on war crimes charges arising from the 1990s conflict. The Kosovo Liberation Army was made up of ethnic Albanian rebels who wanted Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Mustafa oversaw fighters in the Llapi area, 35 kilometers (20 miles) north of the capital, Pristina.

He later served as intelligence chief of the Kosovo Security Forces, military troops created in 2009 as a transitional unit before becoming a regular army. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and a companion prosecutors' office was established five years ago to look into allegations that KLA members committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hysni Gucati of the war veterans' association said Mustafa's family reported he was arrested early Thursday and taken to The Hague. "To us, the court and its actions are unacceptable," Gucati said.

The association has said it anonymously received thousands of confidential files during the last two months, which contain names of witnesses and also draft charges against former top KLA commanders. It is not clear whether the files were stolen or leaked by someone involved in the investigation. The war veterans said they would make them public, a move which a court spokesman warned would undermine the proper administration of justice. The Specialist Prosecutor's Office is investigating how the association came into possession of the documents.

Office spokesman Christopher Bennett said authorities were "vigorously investigating and prosecuting individuals who commit any such crimes." The prosecutors in The Hague also have indicted Kosovar President Hashim Thaci, former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli, and others for crimes that include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture. Both men have denied committing any war crimes. The 1998-1999 war for Kosovo's independence from Serbia left more than 10,000 people dead — most of them ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. More than 1,600 people remain unaccounted for. The fighting ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.

Kosovo, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by many Western nations but not Serbia or its allies Russia and China.


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