Salih Mustafa is accused of crimes dedicated as ethnic Albanian KLA rebels fought to interrupt away from Serbia.
The primary case at a particular court docket probing crimes from Kosovo’s 1998-1999 independence battle is starting in The Hague with the struggle crimes trial of a former insurgent chief going through fees together with homicide and torture.
Salih Mustafa is charged with the struggle crimes of arbitrary detention, merciless remedy, the torture of a minimum of six folks and the homicide of 1 particular person at a detention compound in Zllash, Kosovo, in April 1999. The victims had been accused by KLA fighters of collaborating with Serbs or not supporting the KLA, based on his indictment.
His trial on Wednesday opened with Kosovo Specialist Chambers Presiding Decide Mappie Veldt-Foglia giving a historical past of the authorized proceedings earlier than the fees towards Mustafa had been learn out.
“I’m not responsible of any of the counts introduced right here earlier than me by this Gestapo workplace,” Mustafa, 49, mentioned as his trial began, evaluating the struggle crimes court docket to Nazi Germany’s secret police.
He wore a purple T-shirt in court docket and listened to a simultaneous translation of proceedings via headphones that he held over his left ear.
Mustafa was arrested a 12 months in the past in Kosovo and despatched to the Netherlands to face trial on the EU-backed Kosovo Specialist Chambers.
Prosecutors are making a gap assertion of as much as three hours.
They mentioned Mustafa and his males “brutalised and tortured” fellow ethnic Kosovo Albanians whom they accused of collaborating with Serbs in Zllash, a village east of the capital Pristina.
“These weren’t enemies of Kosovo, they weren’t spies,” senior prosecutor Jack Smith advised the court docket in his opening assertion.
“Their solely crime was to have political beliefs that differed from the KLA and its senior leaders.”
The trial is the primary to start out on the Hague-based court docket, which features underneath Kosovo legislation and was set as much as cope with allegations of struggle crimes dedicated as ethnic Albanian rebels within the Kosovo Liberation Military fought a bloody battle to interrupt away from Serbia.
It was established six years in the past, following a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights physique, that included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners and killed Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians they thought of collaborators.
Amongst different former insurgent commanders in custody awaiting trial are former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who resigned from workplace final 12 months to defend himself towards struggle crimes fees in The Hague.
The court docket is remitted to analyze and prosecute allegations of struggle crimes and crimes towards humanity in Kosovo, or linked to the Kosovo battle, from 1998-2000.
The general public who died within the Kosovo struggle had been ethnic Albanians. A 78-day NATO air marketing campaign towards Serbian troops ended the preventing.
A number of Serbs have been prosecuted at a former UN struggle crimes tribunal for his or her roles in atrocities within the Kosovo struggle.
Mustafa is charged with private involvement in arbitrary detention, merciless remedy and torture and with command duty for the homicide. He is also charged with involvement in all 4 crimes as a member of a “joint prison enterprise”.
The court docket’s actions are extremely delicate as former insurgent commanders nonetheless dominate political life in Kosovo and are handled by many as heroes.
“They’ll condemn Mustafa and the others 100 instances, however for me they’re the heroes who had the braveness to face up towards Serbia,” Adem Idrizi, 65, a pensioner from Pristina, advised AFP.
Others trusted the tribunal to do its job.
“I imagine that the worldwide judges will set up the reality. I solely imagine the proof,” mentioned legislation graduate Blerta Hyseni, 24.
Worldwide tensions over Kosovo stay to at the present time, with america and many of the West recognising Kosovo, whereas Belgrade and its allies Russia and China don’t.