The Kosovo Specialist Chambers publishes its first indictment

Specijalni sud Hag
FOTO: KoSSev

Five years after its establishment, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers has confirmed its first indictment. Salih Mustafa aka „Commander Cali“, one of the founders of the former „KLA“, and now a high official in the Kosovo Ministry of Defense, has been charged with arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture of at least six persons, and murder committed from April 1st, 1999 to April 19th, 1999.

The SPO said in a press release that the indictment against Salih Mustafa was confirmed on 12th June 2020.

For security reasons, the Pre-Trial Judge ordered the indictment to be made public with redactions. The indictment was signed by the Special Prosecutor, Jack Smith.

The indictment says that Salih Mustafa aka ‘Commander Cali’ was the commander of the “BIA Guerrilla unit within the KLA”. The BIA unit consisted of approximately 500 to 600 soldiers. It operated predominantly in and around large urban areas, such as Pristina and Obilic, and in the Gollak/Goljak region, which includes the village of Zllash/Zlas.

The confirmed indictment claims that the crimes were committed in the village of Zlas, which served as a detention facility.

„At all times relevant to this indictment, the BIA unit operated from a compound consisting of a number of buildings in Zllash/Zlas. The BIA unit used the compound as a safe house, and as a detention and interrogation site (hereinafter: ‘Zllash Detention Compound’). The crimes charged in this indictment were committed by certain KLA members against persons detained at the Zllash Detention Compound. The victims of these crimes were all FRY citizens and were persons taking no active part in hostilities,“ the indictment reads.

Between approximately 1st April 1999 and around the end of April 1999, Salih Mustafa and certain other KLA soldiers (‘Kommandant Tabuti’, ‘Ilmi VELA’, ‘Bimi’, ‘Dardan’, ‘Afrim’) are charged with committing abuse – “beatings with various instruments, burning and the administration of electric shocks, and psychologically, including through threat of death and serious bodily injury, fear, humiliation, discrimination on political grounds, intimidation, harassment, interrogation, and forced or coerced statements and confessions. Detainees were physically and psychologically assaulted in front of other detainees. Some were urinated on in front of other detainees during their detention. The detainees at the Zllash Detention Compound were beaten on an almost daily basis.”

The indictment also provides detailed accounts of individual torture of detainees.

Salih Mustafa has been charged with four counts of war crimes – “arbitrary detention” at the detention facility in Zlas, “cruel treatment,” “torture,” and “murder” in the same location and the same period.

Information about the date and time of the initial appearance of Salih Mustafa before the Pre-Trial Judge will be announced in due course. The initial appearance will be a public hearing and can be followed by video streaming via the website of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers – the SPO wrote in a statement.

Mustafa was arrested in Kosovo yesterday and immediately transferred to The Hague.

The victims’ participation process at the KSC begins

“Persons who can demonstrate that they have personally suffered harm, including physical, mental or material harm, as a direct result of alleged crimes contained in a confirmed indictment, may now apply to participate in the proceedings,” the KSC announced last night, adding that a judge will then decide whether the person who applied can become a participating victim before the KSC.

Participating victims in proceedings at the KSC will form one or more groups.

According to the KSC, each of these groups participates through a lawyer who is also called the Victims’ Counsel. The Victims’ Counsel may be present at court hearings and will keep the victims informed throughout the proceedings. 

The “Victims’ Counsel will seek victims’ views, hear their concerns, and bring these to the attention of the relevant judges. Victims who participate in proceedings before the KSC have certain rights, including the right to notification, acknowledgment, and reparation.”

Previously, the media has been extensively reporting about the affair related to the alleged leak of thousands of documents from the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague. These files were delivered to the headquarters of the „KLA War Veterans Association“ on three occasions. Moreover, some media outlets have also recently published these allegedly leaked files. The well-known Albanian TV station “Top Channel” started publishing documents that it claimed were confidential and allegedly delivered to this media outlet from the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.

The SPO did not react to this affair until this Tuesday, when they published a press release, praising the „ethical journalists“ who refused to publish these documents. At the same time, the SPO reiterated that they are committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting individuals who commit any such crimes, “including the disclosure of the identity of individuals who may be called before the court or any information that could lead to their identification.”

There is still no confirmation as to whether the documents from this court were actually leaked – at a time when the first indictments are expected to be filed.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers questioned hundreds of people from November 2018 until today. Some of the most prominent members of the „KLA“ and Kosovo officials who were questioned by this court include the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, the former President of the Assembly of Kosovo in several terms, Kadri Veseli, and the former Prime Minister of Kosovo also in several terms, Ramush Haradinaj.

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