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40 Kosovo Ex-Guerrillas Still Wanted by Serbia

After the brief detention of former PM Ramush Haradinaj, media reports suggest that old Serbian war crimes warrants still exist for some 40 more Kosovo Liberation Army ex-fighters.

Other senior Kosovo politicians could face arrest like former Prime Minister Haradinaj, a wartime guerrilla commander turned political party leader who was detained last week at an airport in Slovenia on a Serbian war crimes warrant, Pristina-based newspaper Koha Ditore reported on Monday.

"Azem Syla, Shukri Buja and Fatmir Limaj could share the same fate as Ramush Haradinaj in some countries of the world. International arrest warrants exist for them for crimes tied to the war in Kosovo," Koha Ditore said.

Syla and Limaj are MPs while Buja is a candidate for the Kosovo's ambassador to Albania. The arrest warrants for Syla and Buja were filed in 2002 and 2004, while the one for Limaj, who leads the Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA) party, was filed in 2010.

Former Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was also wanted for arrest on a Serbian warrant but it was annulled internationally once he took over the premiership, although it remains valid in Serbia, Belgrade officials have insisted.

Some of those who are wanted, like Haradinaj, have already been tried and acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Haradinaj was arrested in Ljubljana last Wednesday and his passport confiscated, but he was released three days later after a Slovenian court ruled that he had been on a legitimate diplomatic mission to Germany.

In a statement following his return to Pristina on Saturday, Haradinaj criticised Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga for thanking the Slovenian authorities for releasing him.

"She should not thank them for what they did to me," he said.

He also criticized Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, who said that the Slovenian authorities acted according to the law.

"What was legal was when I went to [the international court in] The Hague twice, and fulfilled my obligation," he said.

Kosovo legal expert Arianit Koci said that Slovenia was not to blame for Haradinaj's arrest.

"This is a valid arrest warrant. The Slovenian authorities were just fulfilling their obligations towards Interpol," Koci said.

He said that the arrest warrant filed by Serbia and Montenegro in 2004 will continue to be valid until Serbia, the successor of the union between the two ex-Yugoslav states, retracts the warrant.

"Germany and Austria, the two other countries that Mr. Haradinaj travelled to before ending up in Ljubljana, have different legal procedures relating to Interpol warrants," he added, explaining why Haradinaj was not arrested before he reached Slovenia.

The German justice ministry has a legal office that goes through Interpol warrants on a case by case basis, whereas the Slovenian system is automated, he said.

Kosovo is not part of Interpol, but in 2011, a Department for International Cooperation was formed within the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to deal with issues relating to the international police organisation.

"Since our cooperation with Interpol has been going through UNMIK, not a single war crimes arrest warrant has been filed against a Kosovo citizen. When Interpol receive a warrant now, they consult with the Kosovo office. These warrants [for former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters] are all old," said Koci.

[Source: By Una Hajdari, Balkan Insight, BIRN, Pristina, 26Jun15]

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The Question of Kosovo
small logoThis document has been published on 03Aug15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.