AI INDEX: EUR 70/009/2004 1 April 2004
Serbia and Montenegro (Kosovo)
The legacy of past human rights abuses
1. WAR CRIMES
Although as noted below, there has been an apparent reluctance on the part of the authorities to investigate abductions of Serbs and Roma and bring perpetrators to justice, there have been arrests and trials of Serbian and to a lesser extent Albanian war criminals. Many of the Serb defendants were initially tried and sentenced by panels with a majority of ethnic Albanian judges, but, due to doubts about the partiality of the courts, were subsequently re-tried by international or mixed international and Albanian panels (see below).
In 2002 the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) arrested and charged a number of former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members for crimes committed in 1998 and 1999, prompting widespread protests by ethnic Albanians. In December 2002 four leading former KLA members, including Daut Haradinaj, (brother of leading Kosovo politician Ramush Haradinaj) were sentenced to between three and 15 years' imprisonment for the unlawful detention and murder of four Albanians in June 1999. In January 2003 the Tribunal secretly indicted four ex-KLA members, Fatmir Limaj, Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtezi for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war in connection with the murder and torture of Serbs and Albanians perceived as collaborating with Serbsin the Lapusnik/Llapushnik prison camp and elsewhere in Kosovo in 1998. The indictment was made public after the arrest by KFOR of Bala, Musliu and Murtezi in February. They were transferred to the Hague. It transpired that Agim Murtezi was not the person referred to in the indictment and he was released on 28 February. Limaj, a senior aide to leading Kosovo politician Hashim Thaci, was allowed to fly to Austria with Thaci despite the indictment. However, he was detained in Slovenia and extradited to the Hague in early March.
On 17 January 2003 the trial began of Rrustem Mustafa (ex-KLA commander 'Remi'), Nazif Mehmeti, Latif Gashi and Naim Kadriu for war crimes connected with the illegal confinement, torture and murder of suspected ethnic Albanian 'collaborators'. On 8 February 11 people, including four members of the Kosovo Protection Corps (an official body made up former KLA members) and four members of the Kosovo Police Service, were charged in connection with the murder of an Albanian family, seen as 'collaborators', in August 2001.
The arrests, transfers and trials provoked mass protests by tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanians who saw the detainees as 'freedom fighters', as well as attacks on UNMIK vehicles and property. Seemingly undeterred, the administration continued to arrest and try leading ex-KLA members for war crimes and murder.
Trials and re-trials of Serbs who had previously been convicted of war crimes or genocide by panels with a majority of ethnic Albanian judges also continued. On 3 February 2003 the former mayor of Orahovac/Rahovec, Andjelko Kolasinac, was sentenced by the Prizren international court to eight years' imprisonment for war crimes against the Kosovo Albanians in 1999. He had previously been sentenced to five years in 2001 but the Kosovo Supreme Court had ordered a re-trial. On 30 May 2003 the Gnjilane/Gjilan international court acquitted former Kosovo police chief Momèilo Trajkoviæ of war crimes but sentenced him to three years and four months' imprisonment on lesser charges. His previous sentence of 20 years for war crimes had similarly been revoked by the Supreme Court. On 26 June 2003 the international court in Peæ/Pejë sentenced Veselin Besoviæ to seven years' imprisonment for war crimes against civilians in 1999.