The passing year – police arresting police

No visible dialogue was observed between Belgrade and Pristina in 2019, if we exclude the frequent bickering between officials of both sides through the media – which only served to fill the pages of tabloids and electronic headlines. While there were hardly any diplomatic actions, at least visible ones, Kosovo police launched several actions. The passing year, among other dismal political events on the Kosovo issue, was thus visibly marked by the arrests of Kosovo police officers.

While 2018 distinguished itself with letter-writing concerning the Kosovo issue, the year demonstrated a series of arrests against police officers themselves. Although police officers from all over Kosovo were arrested on several occasions on various charges – corruption, abuse of office, organized crime, or other serious crimes, those arrests that took place in the north of Kosovo have particularly caught the eye of both the political scene and the media. These arrests were mainly used for bickering between officials in Belgrade and Pristina.

„By doing what they did yesterday they are forcing Serbian police officers in the north to be worse Albanians than Albanians themselves – which they will not be – with the ultimate goal of arresting Commander Bojic,“ Aleksandar Vucic said at the end of May. Several months later, on October 16th, an arrest action took place in the north during which Zeljko Bojic avoided arrest.

„Arrogant criminals, disguised as police, kicked, broken, demolished, shot to allegedly restore peace and order,“ the mayor of North Mitrovica, Goran Rakic assessed at the time. He also sent a message to „war criminals“ underlining that if „they want to clean the yard, they should clean their own yard first.“

Kosovo media on the other side often published sensationalist reports and headlines, which presented the north as an „organized crime zone“ to the Kosovo public.

During that time, Kosovo police repeatedly announced a fight against corruption and organized crime, boasting regularly of their success and figures, while remaining reluctant to share other information throughout the year.

It appears that only the citizens remained calm, not sharing either anyone’s enthusiasm or anger.

The summarized figures the Kosovo Police chief, Rasit Qalai boasted of a few days ago include a small number of thefts, the fight against drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism. His colleague from region north, Commander Djordje Karamarkovic presented a similar report on the passing year. The number of criminal offenses in the north has declined by approximately 100 offenses in the past 12 months, and the percentage of solved cases has increased by 1.5% (to 66.2%).

On the other hand, an increase in the activities of the Kosovo Police Inspectorate, that is, the number of arrested Kosovo Police officers, including senior officers, even those for whom a warrant has been issued, has been observed over the year.

In its latest reply to KoSSev, the Kosovo Police Inspectorate said that in the first nine months of 2019 (from January to September 2019), the Investigation Department – with the approval of the Prosecution – arrested 32 police officers and one civilian officer, and recommended the suspension of 57 police officers and two civil servants from the Kosovo Police.

Kosovo Police Inspectorate received a total of 1,030 complaints, of which 679 complaints were sent to the Kosovo Police for disciplinary investigation, while 351 complaints were processed by the Investigation Department.

2018 statistics: 194 police officers were investigated, 12 were arrested, 50 suspended, and 10 of them were transferred. In 2018, the Kosovo Police Inspectorate received and reviewed 1,419 complaints and information from citizens against employees of the Kosovo Police (KPS).

Operation “Smuggling”

The most divisive Kosovo Police operation was the “Smuggling” arrest action carried out on several occasions, while the largest action took place in May. Although it was implemented throughout Kosovo, the emphasis was once again placed on region north. The action swiftly heated tensions between Belgrade and Pristina.

The operation, which the prosecutor said was the result of a near one-year investigation by the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office and the Kosovo Police Inspectorate, led to the arrest of 30 people (16 Albanians, 11 Serbs, 4 Bosniaks), including 19 Kosovo Police members (11 Serbs, 4 Albanians and 4 Bosniaks) – one commander, three lieutenants and fifteen police officers; weapons, technical equipment and money were seized; a Kosovo Police officer escaped; riots broke out in Zubin Potok, people were injured and property destroyed, and almost an international incident occurred involving the detention and mistreatment of a Russian citizen, an UNMIK officer, leading to the reaction of top officials in Belgrade and Pristina, but also the highest international officials.

In the early morning hours of May 28th, Kosovo Police Special Forces conducted an action in four municipalities in the north of Kosovo and in three municipalities in the south. During the operation, 20 police officers and 10 civilians suspected of involvement in organized crime groups, abuse of office, bribery and trafficking in goods were arrested.

In addition, 10 citizens unrelated to the investigation of the Kosovo Police Inspectorate and the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office were arrested during the same action and charged with allegedly preventing officials from performing their official duty. The Kosovo Police action continued for the next two days when three more police officers were arrested.

During this police action, several private buildings and vehicles were damaged, while a number of civilians and police officers were injured, mainly in the Zubin Potok area.

Operation „Smuggling“ continued in October. The Kosovo Police Inspectorate and investigators of the Investigative Department, in cooperation with the Kosovo police, arrested three further police officers in the early morning hours in North Mitrovica.

Another arrest action by the Kosovo Police took place in October, this time in connection with Oliver Ivanovic’s murder – exactly 21 months after his assassination. Following an extended investigation into the murder of the Serb politician, inspector Rade Basara was arrested, while Z.B. – which Serbian officials confirmed stands for the chief of the Kosovo Police Operation in the North – Zeljko Bojic – was not found and he has not been available to the Kosovo authorities since then. In the meantime, an arrest warrant was issued for him.

In the meantime, on December 2nd, the first indictments were filed in the case of the murder of Ivanovic. Of the six accused, four are members of the Kosovo Police – R.B., D.M., N.S., and Z. J. In addition to abuse of office, two of them are charged with knowingly concealing/ removing evidence of the crime, attaining benefits for themselves and others, and assisting in the commission of a murder and helping the perpetrators flee the scene. The other two are charged with supplying information from the scene of the killing outside Kosovo and in failing to secure the scene of the crime.

In another October action, a member of the Kosovo Special Operations Police and a civilian were arrested for coercion.

In September, a judge of the Serious Crimes Division of the Basic Court in Srbica/ Skenderaj and a police officer were arrested for abuse of office and corruption. Earlier, two members of the Kosovo Police in Stimlje were also arrested.

On the suspicion of committing the crime of domestic violence, three Kosovo police officers were arrested in 2019, including a sergeant from Djakovica/ Gjakova in May, a Pristina police officer in April, as well as an officer from Kosovo Polje in late September.

Police officer V.V. was arrested in Glogovac in February suspected of allegedly abusing a minor and committing the crime of rape, sexual abuse and abuse of office.

Several police officers were recommended for suspension, including five police officers from the Leposavic police station suspected of injuring a minor from Leposavic on May 18th; two police officers were accused of failing to perform their official duties by a journalist during an incident in Pristina which included an Indeksonline journalists and outgoing Kosovo Trade Minister Endrit Shala; and six police officers from Djakovica/ Gjakova for allegedly using excessive force.

According to Kosovo media reports, two days ago, an Albanian man and his son were transporting cattle from their village near Kamenica to Novo Brdo when they accidentally hit a Kosovo Police officer’s vehicle in Gnjilane with their truck after which officer V.H. reportedly killed the man on the spot.

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