Vladimir Vukcevic on Special Court: Optimistic, witness protection remains a painful subject

vukčevic vladimir
Foto: Printscreen TV Prva

Former Serbian war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic said today that he was pleased that the Special Court started working and that he is an optimist. Vukcevic also said that the Americans were „excited“ when he mentioned Hashim Thaci as a person who „possibly participated in some crimes“ and added that he believes that witness protection is still a painful subject and that he expects pressure on witnesses to continue during this trial.

„I am very pleased that it started working and I have to point out that we are very much responsible for establishing this court. I’m an optimist, something is being done because these are the most monstrous crimes committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia,“ he said.

Kosovo media reported yesterday that two former KLA commanders, Sami Lushtaku and Rustem Mustafa traveled to the Netherlands on Sunday to respond to the allegations made by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in connection with alleged crimes committed by the KLA during the 1998-1999 Kosovo War. Lushtaku said that he is unaware in what capacity he will be questioned, while Mustafa stated that he is traveling to the Hague as “a suspect and as a witness”. Kosovo media also reported that former Hague prosecutor Geoffrey Nice will be Lushtaku’s defense attorney. Vukcevic expressed his surprise over Nice’s decision.

“For example, as a former prosecutor, I would never defend, I mean, I would not deal with war crimes at all, but that’s his right. He’s a great lawyer, I had the opportunity to talk to him, he was a guest here in Belgrade, etc., but I’m surprised, but what is done is done,“ Vukcevic said.

The possibility that Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and the President of the Assembly, Kadri Veseli could appear before the Special Court has been present in the public over the last few days. Vukcevic claimed that it is speculation, adding that he does not want to address this. „I know that when Thaci first appeared as a person who possibly took part in some of the crimes, that this caused great excitement among the Americans, whom I showed it to,“ he said. As a professional, however, he said that he does not want and should not in any way prejudice things.

He underlined that he does not know how many accused will be charged before the Special Court but he also added that „there are people, there are entire teams, the Drenica group,” which were “very cruel“.

When it comes to the cooperation of Serbian state organs with the Special Court in the Hague, Vukcevic said that he does not know how they are cooperating now, but that they have done a lot to help. „Without us, Dick Marty would not have been there. I personally gave everything that we found to Dick Marty, after which Williamson came and after that, the court was formed,” he stressed.

Serbia did not issue indictments because the prosecution had no evidence – said Vukcevic. He added, however, that they have come up with a lot of information that crimes have been committed and that they have tried to achieve some kind of cooperation on the issue with the Albanians, but that it did not succeed, after which he addressed the Council of Europe and Dick Marty.

Vukcevic’s belief is that witness protection is a key issue. He drew Dick Marty’s attention to the problem of witness protection, „that this is a delicate issue and that witnesses are disappearing“. He also cited certain examples to Marty, but he did not want to talk publicly about the cases. „It was a painful subject and I think it will continue to be so,“ he concluded, adding that he expects the pressure on witnesses to continue during this trial.

After Marty’s report, the Special Prosecutor Williamson was appointed, whose work Vukcevic praises: „He stayed with us for a couple of months, the war crimes prosecutor’s office conducted these hearings, and in the end he said that there was evidence, not enough for an indictment but that evidence exists.“

Vukcevic also pointed out that the role of Special Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte and the Hague Tribunal in the formation of the Special Court was a coincidence.

He recalled that the Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia dealt with war crimes committed in the territory of Yugoslavia. During the investigation, „following the trail of Haradinaj’s crimes, they crossed the border, which they did not have the right, but accompanied by KFOR and UNMIK“ and ended up in Albania. „They went in there and found what they found, processed the scene, took pictures of it, and we got to the photos that helped us,“ Vukcevic explained, adding that the chief investigator of Carla del Ponte, Patrick Lopez, helped “a lot”.

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