Kosovo former separatist commander taken to war crimes court
PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A former senior commander of ethnic Albanian separatist fighters in Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war who was also the country’s former Parliament speaker was arrested Wednesday and taken to a special court in the Netherlands for war crimes, his lawyer said.
Jakup Krasniqi, 69, was arrested by policemen of the European Union rule of law mission (EULEX) at his house in Negrovc village, 34 kilometers (20 miles) west of the capital Pristina, according to lawyer Valon Hasani. He was taken to The Hague.
“The indictment has been confirmed and it is expected that a hearing before the special chambers will be scheduled very soon,” said Hasani without giving details of the charges.
Krasniqi is the second former fighter of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, to be taken to the Hague Kosovo Specialist Chambers court after Salih Mustafa in September.
Another ex-KLA commander, Rexhep Selimi, 49, said he had been charged, without giving details, and will go to the Hague on Thursday.
“I have known how to, and always will, defend the freedom of the people, the state of Kosovo, the glorious KLA,” said Selimi, one of the KLA founders.
Selimi is a lawmaker with the main opposition Self-Determination Movemenet Party and also has been interior minister and head of the military academy.
The court and an associated Special Prosecutor’s Office were established five years ago following a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, that included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners and killed Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians. The court is mandated to investigate and prosecute allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kosovo, or linked to the Kosovo conflict, from 1998-2000.
The Kosovo government said it was closely following EULEX activities concerning Krasniqi, adding that the country’s institutions and citizens have always respected the mission’s decisions.
Prosecutors in The Hague also have issued an indictment against Kosovar President Hashim Thaci, former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli, and others for crimes that include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture. It is not clear whether a pre-trial judge has confirmed those indictments though the six-month time to do that is over. Both men have denied committing any war crimes.
Two leaders of the Kosovar war veterans’ association, Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj, were arrested also in September and transferred to The Hague, accused of allegedly endangering potential witnesses in war crimes cases the court is investigating by releasing their names publicly.
The 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.
Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.