From: Bledar Qalliu
Serbia Won’t Give Up Prosecuting Former KLA Members, Says Minister of Justice

Serbia will never give up prosecuting alleged war crimes by former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against Serb  and other non-Albanian people during the Kosovo War.

The statement was given by Serbian Minister of Justice Nela Kuburović during an interview for Novosti newspaper. It follows the detention for a few hours in Albania of a former KLA member after Serbia’s arrest warrant filed with INTERPOL.

The minister said that international arrest warrants they have issued rely on evidence collected by Serbian prosecutors, and there is no reason to give up prosecuting the suspects.

Kuburović stated that KLA was a terrorist organization, that Kosovo is part of Serbia, and that the “so-called state of Kosovo” is a failed one.

Serbia has issued a number of arrest warrants for former KLA members it claims to have committed crimes. 

In 2015 and 2017, former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was the highest profile politician to be arrested abroad, in Slovenia and France, on a Serbian arrest warrant. He had already been acquitted twice on all charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague but Serbia still claims he, like many others also acquitted by the ICTY, is a war criminal. Serbia’s request for his extradition to Belgrade was refused in both cases.

In August 2020, Albanian police detained a former KLA member at the request of Serbia. He was later released, and the Albanian government claimed Kosovo had not sent a list of KLA members so as to avoid arrests requested by Serbia.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office is a tribunal created to specifically prosecute alleged crimes by the KLA, and has been operating for five years. President Hashim Thaci and former Speaker of Parliament Kadri Veseli are among those indicted. No charges have been confirmed yet. A detention facility was recently prepared for potential defendants in The Hague, where the court is located.

Nevertheless, an unknown number of arrest warrants filed by Serbia are active with the INTERPOL.

Meanwhile, Serbia has largely failed to prosecute war crimes perpetrated by the Serbian army against civilians of different ethnicities in former Yugoslavia, in particular the potential war crimes against Albanians in Kosovo.

Until the end of 2019, and 20 years after the end of the last war in former Yugoslavia, the Serbian war crimes prosecution had 2,557 cases in preliminary investigation stage, but only 15 cases in [active] investigation stage, according to a 2020 report by Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC).

They have usually charged one or two people for the killing of many, and none of them has been a high-ranking army or police officer.

The prosecution issued only three indictments in 2019, and two of them were prepared and transferred from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Since the beginning of 2013, the HLC has filed nine criminal complaints about crimes committed in Kosovo; in Pec, Mala Krusa, Savine Vode, Vucitrn, Goden, Kraljani, Landovica, Poklek and Djakovica. However, up until the end of 2019, the Prosecution Office did not start an investigation into a single one of the listed suspects,” the report noted.