Kosovo war crimes court arrests guerrilla veterans' leader, lawyer says

PRISTINA (Reuters) - European Union police on Friday arrested the head of Kosovo's war veterans group and he was being flown to a war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands to face as yet unspecified charges, his lawyer said on Friday. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, mandated to investigate and prosecute suspects in war crimes committed during Kosovo's 1998-99 guerrilla uprising against Serbian rule, declined to comment on the reported arrest.

Reuters September 26, 2020 01:10:54 IST
Kosovo war crimes court arrests guerrilla veterans' leader, lawyer says

Kosovo war crimes court arrests guerrilla veterans leader lawyer says

PRISTINA (Reuters) - European Union police on Friday arrested the head of Kosovo's war veterans group and he was being flown to a war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands to face as yet unspecified charges, his lawyer said on Friday.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, mandated to investigate and prosecute suspects in war crimes committed during Kosovo's 1998-99 guerrilla uprising against Serbian rule, declined to comment on the reported arrest.

Witnesses said Hysni Gucati, head of Kosovo's War Veterans Association, was handcuffed and bundled into an EU police car by masked officers in the tiny Balkan country's capital Pristina.

In recent weeks Gucati and his aides had published dozens of court documents with the names of suspects, witnesses and civilians allegedly murdered during the uprising, which eventually won Kosovo independence in 2008.

"He was never interviewed on war crimes charges and, based on the documents we saw, he may have been arrested on obstruction of justice charges," Tome Gashi, lawyer for the War Veterans' Association, told Reuters.

Later in the day local television showed EU and Kosovo police also arresting Gucati's deputy, Nasim Haradinaj.

Earlier this week the tribunal prosecutor’s office condemned the veterans association's release of the case documents as an attempt to "undermine the proper administration of justice".

It said it was committed to "vigorously investigating and prosecuting" people who sought to expose potential witnesses.

The Specialist Chamber was set up in The Hague in 2015 to handle cases of alleged atrocities by Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas during the uprising.

Kosovo-based investigations have been foiled by widespread intimidation in a country where clan loyalties run deep and former rebels are lionised. The tribunal was set up in the Netherlands partly to help ensure protection of witnesses.

EU police in Kosovo are empowered to make arrests related to war crimes charges if requested by the Hague-based court.

In June, the chamber’s prosecutor charged Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, the former guerrilla commander, with war crimes and crimes against humanity including nearly 100 murders. A judge has yet to confirm the indictment, a step required for a trial. Thaci denies wrongdoing and remains in Kosovo.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Kirsten Donovan)

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