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Kosovo: Serb ex-police officer jailed for rape during war

July 5, 2021 GMT

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A Kosovar court on Monday sentenced to 10 years in prison a Serbian ex-policeman accused of raping an ethnic Albanian woman during the 1998-1999 war. The sentencing was believed to be the first for a rape conviction dating back to the Kosovo war.

The Pristina court said Zoran Vukotic raped the Albanian woman in May 22, 1999 when Serb military, police and paramilitary troops were deporting ethnic Albanians from the region of Vushtri, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the capital Pristina.

A court statement said Vukotic, a policeman at the time, took a young woman to the second floor of a home and raped her in front of other women. The victim was more than three months pregnant at the time and she lost her twins a few months later.

In her testimony to the court last year she said she had tried to commit suicide, but her husband’s support saved her, according to the KosovaPress online media portal.

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“Justice means a lot,” she was quoted as saying. “Thanks to God and to him (husband) I am alive and stronger.”

Vukotic is separately serving a 6.5 year sentence after he was convicted three years ago of illegally detaining, beating and torturing ethnic Albanian inmates at a prison in northern Kosovo during May to June 1999.

The former policeman was extradited from Montenegro in November 2016.

More than 10,000 mainly ethnic Albanians were killed and more than 1,600 are still missing from the war. It is also believed that some 20,000 Albanian women were raped.

The 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, then a Serbian province, ended after a NATO military intervention that forced Serbia to withdraw its forces. The United Nations ran the territory for nine years before Kosovo in 2008 declared independence, a move that Serbia doesn’t recognize.

Kosovo’s Center for Rehabilitation of Survived and Tortured Persons, which initiated the indictment, considered the verdict “a triumph of justice not only for the victim but also for all the survived persons of the sexual violence.” It nevertheless considered the 10-year jail term inadequate and plans to appeal for a higher sentence.

It is not clear whether Vukotic would appeal the verdict as his lawyers could not be contacted.