Monday, December 05, 2005

BALKANS: STAR TREATMENT FOR ACQUITTED KOSOVARS

Pristina, 2 Dec. (AKI) - The Kosovo Albanian language media on Friday gave star treatment to Fatmir Limaj and Isak Musliu, two Kosovo Albanians acquitted by UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague. The two man were indicted by the International Tribunal for War Crimes in Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on charges of killing civilians in a Kosovo prison camp during ethnic Albanian rebellion against Serbian rule in 1998. A third man facing the same charges was convicted. The acquittals have been harshly criticised by Belgrade and Serbian leaders in Kosovo who argues that it proves that the tribunal is anti-Serb.Limaj and Musliu, who operated a prison camp in the village of Lapusnik in which 23 Serb and Albanian civilians, suspected of collaborating with Serbian forces, were killed, arrived in Pristina on Thursday night, greeted by a crowd of their supporters. They were acquitted by the Tribunal on Wednesday, while a third indictee, Haradin Bala was sentenced to 13 years for killing nine civilians.Kosovo newspapers celebrated their return in celebratory front page articles and the daily “Koha ditore”, quoted Limaj as saying their release was a “victory for Kosovo, which will surely become independent”. The two were commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which started a rebellion against the Serbian authorities, whose persecution of Kosovo's Albanian majority led to a NATO bombing campaign and forced Serbian troops from the province, which has been under United Nations control since 1999.“There was no need to go to the Hague to prove the holiness of the war conducted by the KLA,” said Limaj. He predicted Bala would soon also be freed on appeal. Meanwhile, Vojin Dimitrijevic, a professor of international law at Belgrade University, until now a staunch supporter of the Tribunal, said that the Hague prosecutors haven’t shown “the usual diligence” in proving Limaj and Musliu guilt. Furthermore, the “chain of command responsibility” was completely neglected in this case, since Limaj and Musliu, as commanders, were freed while Bala, who was a guard in the prison camp, was convicted. The verdict will only strengthen “anti-Hague sentiments in Serbia”, argued Dimitrijevic, adding that court has demonstrated “partiality in favor of Kosovo Albanians, who turned out to be privileged participants in all these wars”.

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