October 23rd 2009 02:40:20 AM
If NATO couldn’t tame these beasts, how will a handful of EU judges? Though so far, they’re doing a better jobPosted by Julia Gorin
Let’s begin with what constitutes an Albanian “judge” in Kosovo.
The EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX, has condemned comments made by a Kosovar judge, revealing the private deliberations during the [trial] of three former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.
Judge Rrahman Retkoceri was part of a three-man panel, including two EULEX representatives, which [handed] down jail terms to Latif Gashi, Nazif Mehmeti and Rrustem Mustafa for war crimes committed during the conflict in Kosovo.
But speaking to Pristina dailies Epoka e Re and Lajm following the decision, he revealed he was against convicting the men but had been outvoted by his international colleagues.
According to the newspapers, he claimed the decision was ‘unjust and unlawful’.
The trio, known as the Llapi Group, were found guilty of torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners at camps in the hills of northern Kosovo, near Podujevë/Podujevo.
Senior Kosovar politicians have lined up since the sentencing to condemn the verdict.
In a statement, Christophe Lamfalussy, EULEX’s head of press, claimed that this case demonstrated that Kosovo’s judiciary ‘does not appear to have sufficient protection from outside interference’.
He said: “EULEX would like to stress that, according to the Kosovo law, the opinions expressed and the positions taken by judges during their internal discussions in reaching a verdict are confidential.
“This is a fundamental rule which guarantees the independence and the impartiality of the judges whose decisions are taken in accordance with the applicable law and on the basis of the evidence gathered.
“Following a sensitive trial, a Kosovo judge did not abide by this rule. He made a public statement about the confidential deliberations he had had…with two EULEX colleagues.
“Now it is up to the competent Kosovo authorities to look into this event which raises two major issues.”
Lamfalussy called on institutions – especially the Kosovo Judicial Council – to ‘strengthen their commitment to ensuring that prosecutors and judges may work in an environment free from any kind of threats, pressure or promises’.
He added: “Kosovo judges work in a difficult environment where threats are made and pressure exerted.
Mustafa, known as Remi, was a senior commander in the former KLA and is now an MP for the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and chairperson of the Interior Affairs and National Security Committee in parliament. [Yes, in Kosovo the terrorists run security. Another staple of Kosovo: the war criminals get to pursue political careers like nothing ever happened.]
According to information released by the EU rule of law mission, the three men were found to have been behind the beating and torture of Kosovo Albanian civilians held in the detention centre, in an attempt to force confessions of disloyalty to the KLA.
Mehmeti and Mustafa were found guilty of the beating and torture of a Serbian forest ranger, who they imprisoned at detention centres in Bare, Bajgora and other surrounding locations in an attempt to force him to confess to acts against the KLA and to provide intelligence.
Gashi was sentenced to six years in prison, Mehmeti three and Mustafa four years. All three have appealed.
The case was first investigated in 2001 to 2002 and went to trial in 2003 [by a UN court], concluding with guilty verdicts and long jail sentences. However, in 2005, the Supreme Court of Kosovo ordered a retrial.
The sentences on Friday led to a flurry of condemnation from senior political leaders.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said: “This is bad news for Kosovo. The Kosovo Government reiterates the world-known truth that the war of KLA was a liberation war, a just war - supported by all the citizens of Kosovo. Kosovo Government will continue with its commitment for the rule of law and unbiased justice.”
Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the opposition party AAK, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, said: “This is to be regretted, because the announcement of the verdict is in complete discrepancy with the truth and the values of the KLA war.”
These comments, in turn, forced EULEX to release a statement underlining that the verdict was based on the principles of an independent judiciary.
The statement read: “EULEX supports and shares the Kosovo Government’s engagement and dedication to the rule of law and unbiased justice. This commitment is crucial to ensuring that Kosovo’s judiciary meets European standards.”
So what we have is a Kosovo “Supreme Court” that re-opened a case against Albanian war criminals, known as “heroes” to Albanians, in order to get them out of jail. Because committing war crimes in furtherance of the expansionist, supremacist Albanian agenda is no crime at all. A notion that is supported by the ruling party, as it is by the “opposition” party. Both of which are composed of the same kinds of former KLA terrorists who were sentenced here.
These hapless international judges are running into a snag as they try to bring law and order to a society whose leadership is composed of terrorists. U.S.-supported terrorists. The judges have basically been dropped into the middle of a society used to impunity and U.S.-mandated immunity for the terror they’ve used to run it for the past 11 years. So that even the paltry three to six years these terrorists/politicians were sentenced to is too much jail time for killing and torture, if committed by an Albanian.
So naturally the Albanian “judge” would find the verdicts “unjust and unlawful.” Because in Kosovo there is nothing more lawful than killing Serbs, or the equally expendable Albanians who are suspected of disloyalty to the cause of killing Serbs. And if removing fingernails or limbs or whatever kind of torture these politicians/terrorists employed was done in furtherance of the Albanian cause, then removing body parts is a righteous activity.
This is the sort of government that the U.S. has been fighting to be internationally recognized as a legitimate state, and to have a seat at the table of every international institution. Such is the state of U.S. state-building today.
One certainly has to feel sorry for the international judges walking into an environment in which for the past 10 years criminal cases were tossed into a closet at UN headquarters. But the silver lining to all this is that as the judges are confronted with the horror that is Kosovo, it can lead to the real Kosovo finally, finally being exposed. Unlike NATO, whose troops have been witnessing all along what goes on in Kosovo, these judges aren’t constrained by any central command, any gag order, or any blackmail that was making the international military presence keep a lid on the story.
So far, they’ve only been vandalized for their diligence. While Hague judges and UN personnel have been threatened. As have been any local Albanian judges whose appointments were not approved by the terrorist leadership.
In fact, that appears to be the case with the Albanian judge above, who unlawfully revealed the panel’s deliberations (assuming he’s telling the truth): “…Ratkoceri said he revealed his vote against the ruling because he received threats after the court chamber…voted to convict the three former KLA members accused of torturing civilians.”
As to why he voted to acquit the murderers, one can assume either that he knew his life would be in jeopardy otherwise, or that he was simply being an Albanian. Of course, if the former were the case, he could simply say so, rather than saying that he considers the verdict to be “unjust and unlawful.”
Kosovo’s justice watchdog suspended an ethnic Albanian judge on Friday for saying he voted against the verdict that found three former ethnic Albanian rebels guilty of war crimes in Kosovo’s 1998-99 war…The EU is in charge of prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo because local courts have been reluctant to prosecute former guerrillas, who are seen as liberators by most ethnic Albanians.
Mustafa branded the ruling unjust and blamed the EU-run court for bias.
Kosovo’s government, which is led by the former rebel leader Hashim Thaci, called the verdict “bad news for Kosovo.” […]
So here again, from these last two comments, we know just how much the EULEX mission is welcome by Kosovo leaders to show the fledgling “state” the way of lawfulness and justice. If you don’t promote Albanian supremacy, and you stray from the Albanian agenda by an inch, you are demonstrating “bias.”
Related: AKK chief criticises Kosovo’s judicial system (Sep. 21)
PRISTINA, Kosovo — The Anti-Corruption Agency (AKK) says the judicial system is the most corrupt institution in Kosovo, followed by the central government, local authorities, and publicly owned companies. Speaking to Deutsche Welle on Sunday (September 20th), AKK head Hasan Preteni said the fight against corruption is an uphill battle. Since 2006, the AKK has sent files on suspected cases to the Public Prosecutor, but no legal procedure has been initiated, Preteni said. “The agency has sent more than 150 files on possible corruption cases, but no official has been arrested,” he added. As a result, most of the cases have been sent to EULEX for investigation. (Deutsche Welle, Telegrafi, Kohavision - 20/09/09)
Below we have an American judge from Minnesota, named Marilyn Kaman, who tried her hand at justice in Kosovo:
…I was posted to a city called Peć/Peja. Or is it Peja/Peć? These are two names, one Serbian and one Albanian, and the order in which you say them supposedly signifies a bias or preference.
It would be difficult being an impartial international judge in Kosovo, where every move was scrutinized.
I took part in “internationalized justice”: in contrast with ad hoc bodies such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, we international judges sat in Kosovo’s domestic courts alongside local judges, in the hope of bringing a measure of impartiality to the outcome.
The stories of two women tell much about my experience in Kosovo.
Almost immediately upon arrival in Pec/Peja, I came to know the 1st woman, Haxjere Sahiti.
She had been married on Sunday and murdered on Monday. The 20-year-old Kosovar Albanian woman died from seven gunshots, in her family’s living room. The killer was her brother; the murder was witnessed by her mother and brother.
Her crime was supposedly not being a virgin. Under traditional Albanian cultural code, a bride may be returned to her family if she “is not as she should be” on her wedding night – or the groom may kill her, with a bullet traditionally given him by the bride’s father.
Upon exhumation of Haxjere’s body, it was determined that she had been a virgin, after all.
The international police, with whom I worked, investigated this crime and tried to find the killer. But no one wanted to give information. To talk to police or the courts would violate notions of maintaining family “honor.” To do so would mean that the potential witness (or their family) would “pay” – with their lives – for the information given. Haxjere’s family professed to know nothing.
As an international judge in Kosovo, I was asked to sit on politically sensitive cases – of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnically motivated disputes, trafficking in drugs and human beings, genocide. I also acted as an investigative judge – more akin to a prosecutor in the United States – and determined whether sufficient evidence existed to charge someone with a crime. I faced many unconventional obstacles that necessarily exist in a mission environment. With Haxjere Sahiti’s case, I confronted an obstacle new to me – that cultural norms dictate both what a “permissible honor killing” is and the silencing of witnesses.
Yet another obstacle in the case of the 2d woman, Sabahate Tolaj.
Sabahate was 35 years old. She was not married and had no children, and had completed the Aviation School in Sarajevo. During the 1999 war in Kosovo, she had been a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Under UNMIK, the United Nations’ Mission in Kosovo, Sabahate was a Kosovo Police Service officer in Peja, investigating high-profile murders and referring the investigations to international judges like me. Sabahate and I had numerous conversations and we felt a particular kinship with one another.
One day I asked about her safety. You see, I had bodyguards, and she did not. Sabahate just shrugged and said: ‘This is what I do. I enjoy it. And it is the right thing to do. So, I do not worry.’
On November 24, 2003, at 7:45 in the morning, a “drive-by” assassination took place. Sabahate and another officer were killed; the third survived his wounds. After nearly four years of investigations and court hearings – justice comes slowly – the convictions were read out in Peja District Court. Bedri Krasniqi was sentenced to twenty-seven years for double murder; the other accused were acquitted for insufficient evidence.
Sabahate was killed only a couple of months after I returned home. My sadness over her death is still present.
An all-too-familiar postscript: Double murderer escapes Kosovo prison, wire services reported on December 1, 2008, adding, “nine member[s] of the correctional services were held on suspicion that they helped” Sabahate’s killer get away. […]
About the Minnesota judge’s murdered ex-KLA friend Sabahate: Certainly no Albanian, much less an American, would see the big picture of this murder. The big picture: This is the society that Sabahate was fighting as a KLA member to create. So one ex-KLA gets killed by another ex-KLA, the guy who killed her probably fought alongside her in the KLA which Krasniqi most likely was. (And which would help explain the connections he’d have to have to get broken out of prison with so much help.)
It’s doubtful that even girls killed by their families in honor killings would make any connection between the pan-Albanianism that they all promoted, and the honor killings that take their lives. Even the gay Albanians who get beaten up in Kosovo no doubt felt unity against “the Serbian enemy,” and supported enshrining the very kind of lawless society that discriminates against them. Purely out of Albanianism. As if such a society is anything to be proud of.
Indeed, even Tony Dovolani of “Dancing with the Stars,” who should have practice in outside-the-clan thinking by now, nonetheless struts his Albanian nationalism (as do actors Elija Dushku and James Belushi), in the form of costumes donning the ominous double eagle that is the pride of pan-Albania and a symbol of death to anyone daring to speak a Slavic tongue in Kosovo. (As it is for many Albanians who were content to live with non-Albanians in their midst.) “Made in Kosovo,” read a T-shirt that Dovolani wore on the show two weeks ago. Again: As if that’s something to be proud of, rather than something to overcome.
Beyond Kosovo’s unfixable justice system, can you believe it — the free press is also under attack in the celebrated stillborn state:
Free Press Threatened in Kosovo (from June)
…Television Journalist Jeton Llapashtica claims to have lost his job because of the questions he asked. Not because his line of inquiry was irrelevant, or his delivery poor, but because he directed “very tough questions” at Kosovo’s government spokesperson, Memli Krasniqi. [Note: Krasniqi is a common last name, and there isn’t necessarily a relation to the aforementioned killer Bedri Krasniqi, outside of possible clan kinship.]
Llapashtica alleges he was fired from his Besa TV job purely because his questions were not in the best commercial interest of the television station he was working for. [Note that the TV station is named for the Albanian blood code, Besa.]
During his interview with Krasniqi, Llapashtica asked the Government’s spokesperson to comment on Kosovar rock band Troja and their song Clown’s testament, in which the political apparatus in Kosovo is criticised as an organized team which is stealing land.
Llapashtica said he was told: “You shouldn’t have asked him that question because you provoked him very much. We shouldn’t taunt the government people. They give us advertisements.”
…[Besa TV director Muhamer Fusha] added that “being critical, and a local TV station, is not in the best interest of local TV station”. He said it was [for] the national media to tackle the bigger issues.
While compiling a report in Skenderaj Municipality, which is led by the PDK, Kosovo Democratic Party, a BIRN team was attacked and impeded from filming. Journalist for Jeta në Kosovë Jeta Abazi was trying to report on failures by the mayor.
“Instead of leaving Skenderaj with certain emotions, knowing that the region is famous for resistance toward the Serbian regime, we returned with other emotions and with police escort,” Abazi told viewers after the incident.
According to Glauk Konjufca, from the Vetevendosje! Movement, there is no freedom of expression in Kosovo. “There is an entire mechanism of small scale blackmails, threats, phone calls and pressure threatening the freedom of speech either on behalf of the government or the institutions”.
And, according to the US Department of State in 2008: “Journalists in Kosovo are intimidated by the government officials, public service workers, as well as by businesses…”
The issues around freedom of press were thrust into the open when, at the end of May, Kosovo’s Parliamentary Speaker Jakup Krasniqi declared that civil society and the media in Kosovo were directed by the Government.
Ilir Deda, from KIPRED, said that there was a lack of freedom of speech in Kosovo. “We don’t have a tradition of freedom of expression, and due to the lack of this tradition, the only freedom of expression historically was to say ‘Kosovo republic’ or ‘separation from Serbia’.”
Notice that under Serbia they were free to engage in that kind of speech. So how does “liberation” feel?
What the journalists are experiencing is part and parcel of the rampant criminality and terror-ruled lawlessness that the Serbian authorities finally and reluctantly started to battle in the 1998-99 war. Every media outlet in Kosovo gave of itself to the pro-war, anti-Serbian propaganda effort that won them an intervention to deliver them into the jaws and joys of an Albanian-ruled society. The media knew which side they were on then, so what’s the problem now? Now that they’ve achieved their goal and enshrined such a society into statehood?
And here, also from June, we have an Albanian reporter looking into KLA crimes being tarred as — what else? — a Serbian spy:
The EU’s External Relations Committee office in Pristina, RELEX Kosovo, vows support for freedom of speech as the campaign against journalist Jeta Xharra intensifies…Xharra is the host of a popular current affairs program, “Life in Kosovo”, produced by BIRN [Balkan Investigative Reporting Network] and aired weekly by public broadcaster RTK.
The show has frequently come under attack for its investigation of issues such as alleged atrocities committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, among other issues. In the past days, Xharra has been the victim of an intensifying campaign due to the 31 May airing of a programme looking into freedom of speech in Kosovo. The Infopress tabloid newspaper, beholden to the government for advertising revenues, has labeled her a “spy for Serbia” and published threatening letters from readers. […]
Just your run-of-the-mill reader mail in Kosovo, chosen by the responsible editorial staff of that paper.
An update on Kosovo media came last month: Kosovo government accused of “suffocating” media
The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) accused Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his government of threatening media freedom and freedom of speech on Monday (September 28th). AAK lawmaker Donika Kada-Bujupi compared the current government to the communist regime. According to her, the government’s interventions are risking democracy and undermining progress achieved over the past decade. […]
Progress? The progress of which she speaks has nothing to do with democratizing; what she refers to is the 10-year march to an independent thugocracy. Which she now has. So again, what’s the problem?
As for the mentality that started this post — namely, that whatever is done in the name of the Albanian cause is righteous and therefore a verdict against an Albanian war criminal is “unjust” — it is interesting to note that even Bosnian Muslim war criminals have been known to apologize to their Serbian victims. Meaning that even Bosnian Muslims are less automated than the supposedly even less Muslimy Albanians.
But every now and then, you encounter an Albanian with a death wish — one who, again, doesn’t get the big picture of what he fought for, and makes the mistake of scraping up some fair-thinking in his otherwise automated android head. Rather than admit nothing and keep punching until the six Albanian-populated nations are united as one, the Albanians below — including several ex-KLA — have experienced a short-circuit in their programming and say that since their side won the war, it’s only right to start talking about the KLA’s war crimes and come to terms with what was done in the name of an independent Kosovo. In interviews last April, they exposed the remnants of the humanity god vested them with, before it was corrupted by the religion of “Albanianism”:
Horrors of KLA prison camps revealed
BBC Radio 4, Crossing Continents
The man spoke plainly as he explained the horrors he lived through in a Kosovo Liberation Army prison camp 10 years ago. He told me about how he watched people beaten with steel pipes, cut with knives, left for days without food, and shot and killed.
“What can you feel when you see those things?” he said. “It’s something that is stuck in my mind for the rest of my life. You cannot do those things to people, not even to animals.”
As the man talked, his mother paced nervously in the nearby kitchen. She was panicked and tears were streaming down her face.
“They’ll kill him, they’ll kill him,” she moaned, clutching one of her grandchildren.
But her son persisted. We spent hours in the family’s sitting room as our source detailed allegations of possible war crimes by KLA officers in a military camp in the Albanian border town of Kukes.
It was a crucial interview for a delicate story I have been investigating for years.
Soon after the war ended in Kosovo, I started looking into the thousands of civilians who disappeared during and after the conflict. Many Albanian victims were dumped in wells or transported to mass graves as far away as Belgrade.
But others - mainly Serbs - simply vanished without a trace. There were no demands for ransom, no news of any kind.
I had met sources who spoke vaguely about secret camps in Albania where Kosovo Serbs, Albanians and Roma were interrogated, tortured and in most cases killed.
I met another source who agreed to share important details about KLA prison camps. This man cut a very different profile.
He had returned from a successful career abroad to join the KLA in its fight for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.
The man was still proud of the goals he fought for, but he had become haunted by the treatment of civilians he had seen at a KLA prison camp. More than that, he said he felt angry and betrayed by KLA commanders who tolerated and even ordered the abuses.
“It didn’t seem strange at the time,” he told me as he described seeing desperate civilians locked in a filthy agricultural shed.
He said the civilians were Serbs and Roma seized by KLA soldiers and were being hidden away from Nato troops. The source believes the captives were sent across the border to Albania and killed.
“Now, looking back, I know that some of the things that were done to innocent civilians were wrong. But the people who did these things act as if nothing happened, and continue to hurt their own people, Albanians.”
This man was one of eight former KLA fighters who revealed some of their darkest secrets from the war.
Yet another source spoke of driving trucks packed with shackled prisoners - mainly Serbian civilians from Kosovo - to secret locations in Albania where they were eventually killed.
He recalled hearing two of the captives begging to be shot rather than tortured and “cut into pieces”.
“I was sick. I was just waiting for it to end,” the source told me. “It was hard. I thought we were fighting a war [of liberation] but this was something completely different.”
It has taken these men 10 years to speak to an outsider about the dark side of the war. They were breaking a code of silence that has held strong in Kosovo.
Very few Kosovo Albanians have publicly revealed crimes committed by their own side. And for good reason. Witnesses who have agreed to provide testimony for prosecutions of KLA commanders have faced intimidation and death threats.
Some have been killed, according to United Nations officials in Kosovo.
There is another reason. All the men we spoke with insisted they were Kosovan patriots and would take up arms again to defend the country’s independence.
But that is precisely the point: independence - of a sort - arrived for Kosovo last year. Their wartime goal has been attained.
As one of the former KLA fighters told me: “Now is the time to be honest to ourselves and build a real state.”
It appears these former KLA soldiers need a reminder of the KLA Oath they took: “I, the Kosovo Liberation Army fighter, in the name of the people and the future, take a solemn oath to be faithful to the liberation battle, firm to the end, and ready to give my life, in every moment for the liberation of Kosovo and all the occupied territories until they are finally united with Albania.” (Video shot in 1998, near Djakovica.)
That a unified Greater Albania was the end game is something the Serbs were screaming from the rooftops in the 90s when we decided to enter the Albanian turf war against them, and the Albanians weren’t exactly keeping it a secret. In fact, they put it in writing years before the war started in their communiques.
Our leaders just knew we wouldn’t be interested. And we’re still not.
Overall, this “Newborn” is a charming demon child, and it’s always calming to see comprehending discussions like this one that took place in June:
Kosovo: Model for a Future Palestinian State? (From the US Office Mission to the EU)
June 17 - The Republic of Kosovo has been a sovereign and independent state [sic] for well more than a year. Over the past year, it has moved quickly to build democratic institutions and implement the principles of U.N. special envoy and Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari’s plan, including strong constitutional protections for minority rights and for religious and cultural heritage. Sixty countries from every continent have recognized Kosovo, including an overwhelming majority of EU, NATO and OSCE members. The intensive global cooperation shown by nations in building Kosovo could serve as an example for other conflict-resolution efforts, including work for the creation of a future Palestinian state.
On June 26, senior U.S. State Department official Stuart Jones will take your questions on all topics related to Kosovo.
So not only was the method of wresting Kosovo from Serbia cited as a good idea for Israel/Palestine as well, but now the resulting devil child of a “state” is being suggested as a model.
Well, at least the Palestinians already have the “Zionist spy” part down as a label for any critics of a Palestinian regime, so it’s all a very promising parallel.