Judges of the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo issued verdicts in the Drenica I and Drenica II cases on Wednesday and sentenced 11 Kosovo Albanian men to prison. The charges included the intentional perpetration of violence, cruel treatment, beating, torture, humiliating and degrading treatment of civilians and for some the killing of a Serbian police officer.
All of the acts were committed between June and September of 1998 at a Kosovo Liberation Army detention center in Likovë. The sentenced men include [Reuters report] Kosovo’s current ambassador to neighboring Albania, Sylejman Selimi, and two close allies to the former Prime Minister Hashim Thaci [Britannica bio]. The prison sentences range from three to 12 years.
EULEX was created in 2008 to investigate crimes committed by ethnic Albanian rebels during the 1998 war with Serbia. Various courts and organisations have been dedicated to prosecuting war crimes committed on both sides of the conflict, resulting in convictions of both Serbian and Kosovar participants.
Rebels during the conflict allegedly killed approximately 400 civilians. In April 2013 Serbia and Kosovo entered into a historic agreement on EU membership, signalling a reduction in hostility between the two nations.
Lawmakers in Kosovo on Wednesday voted 89-22 to create an EU-backed court that will investigate crimes committed by ethnic Albanian rebels during the 1998 war with Serbia. The move follows international pressure for Kosovo to open a state investigation into civilian killings committed by the rebel side. The court will be based in Kosovo, though most of the work will be carried out in the Netherlands. Similar to the operations of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the court will be run by international judges and lawyers.
Rebels during the conflict allegedly killed approximately 400 civilians.
War crimes related to the 1998 war have been investigated and prosecuted on many levels by several different bodies. Earlier this month the Associated Press discovered plans by the EU to instate a war crimes tribunal to deal specifically with allegations focusing on offences committed by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels.
On February 11 Serbia’s war crimes court sentenced nine former paramilitary fighters to long prison terms for their roles in the genocide of ethnic Albanians during the war. In November the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) indicted fifteen individuals for war crimes including murder, torture and mistreatment of prisoners. In April 2013 Serbia and Kosovo entered into a historic agreement on EU membership, signalling a reduction in hostility between the two nations. It is widely hoped that this new tribunal which will hold Kosovars responsible for their war crimes will go further to reconciling the two countries.
Fifteen years since breaking from the war, Kosovo stands among Europe’s poorest countries with millionaire politicians immersed in crime. A third of the workforce is unemployed and corruption is rife. About two out of three under the age of 25th are currently jobless, and nearly 50% of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people are considered to be poor. Three opposition parties in Kosovo said on Tuesday they had united and planned to form a government, trying to undercut Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi whose ruling PDK party won an election but was left seeking partners.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It has been recognised by the US and many EU countries. Nato peacekeepers have been in Kosovo since 1999 and have failed to distribute their fully mandate to provide a peaceful, safe and secured environment for everyone, especially in the country’s northern bank that is immersed in violence and outlawed actions from the pro-Serbia’s separatist armed militants.
According to WikiLeaks leaked diplomatic cables, and 2011—further leaked NATO intelligence files, the geographical spread of Kosovo’s criminal gangs is set out alongside details of alleged familial and business links, involving majority members of country’s ruling party PDK lead by Hashim Thaçi, as well as other political parties, such as AAK lead by Ramush Haradinaj and ‘Vetëvendosje‘ lead by Albin Kurti, among several other small groups that operate as cover-up of crime clans through the order of ‘KANUN’.
The 2011 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty, which pointed the finger at Thaçi and other ex-rebels, in the box of allegations are included four senior members of PDK and candidates for parliament, as well as Thaçi’s party deputy Kadri Veseli.
Thaçi was one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army that took up arms in the late 1990s to break free from the repressive rule of the then Yugoslavia, under Belgrade’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic, which was not convicted for crimes against humanity across the Balkan Peninsula, but found his death during the ICTY trial in The Hague. Serbia and Milosevic’s successors (comrades!), who had played an important role in ethnic cleansing, mass murdering and massacring the innocent civilians in the then Yugoslavia, were rewarded with freedom of movement across European soil.
NATO intervened in 1999 with 78 days of air strikes against Serbia, trying to halt the massacre and ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians by Serbian forces waging counter-insurgency.