Albanian Language Media:
- COVID-19: 12 deaths, 410 new cases (media)
- Osmani: “Open Balkan” is dangerous (media)
- Balkans towards insecurity without Merkel? (DW Albanian, media)
- Minister Libur Aliu brings details about the Agreement in Belgrade (media)
- Uran Ismaili hands over his MP mandate (media)
- AAK decides to hold only five days of pre-election campaign (RTK)
- Kurti testifies in court about threat he received from Haxhi Hoti in 2019 (Klan)
- Special Prosecutor issues two requests for arrest warrant against three individuals (RTK)
Serbian Language Media:
- Vucic on Kurti’s announcement of reciprocity: You cannot influence irrational moves (KoSSev)
- Selakovic: If Pristina launches its recognition campaign, we know what to do (RTS, Kosovo Online)
- The EC president announced a visit to the Western Balkans by the end of the month (Danas, Beta)
- The DFC continues to work with governments to promote economic opportunities in the region (VoA)
- Bieber: Merkel has supported Serbia’s undemocratic regime to some extent (N1)
- Petkovic: ‘’Everything is ready for the celebration of the National Flag Day on KiM’’ (TV Most)
- Dacic on Kurti’s announcements: The time of the election campaign (RTK2, Nova S, TV Pink)
- At the Merdare crossing, the reciprocity measure for the vehicle plates from Serbia not applied (KoSSev, KiM radio, RTK2)
- Rakic: The Serbian list and the candidates for mayors received support from President Vucic (Kosovo Online)
- Vucic: Elections to be held on April 3 or 17 (Tanjug)
- Leaders of dubious motives (KoSSev)
- Kosovo’s Wartime ‘Commander Cali’ Emerges from the Shadows (BIRN)
- Ex-rebel denies war crimes as Kosovo tribunal opens first trial (Reuters)
- Relationship between Berlin Process and Open Balkan discussed during Merkel’s Tirana visit (EWB)
- Serb Unity Day triggers worries across the Balkans (AP)
Albanian Language Media
COVID-19: 12 deaths, 410 new cases (media)
12 deaths from COVID-19 and 410 new cases have been recorded in Kosovo in the last 24 hours. 1,732 persons recovered from the virus during this time.
There are 14,501 active cases with COVID-19 in Kosovo.
Osmani: “Open Balkan” is dangerous (media)
The President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani has said that the “Open Balkans” is not only dangerous for Kosovo, but also slows down the EU membership process.
Osmani said this during a discussion on the Foreign Policy Network (DGAP), in a conversation on the future of Kosovo with Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, while saying that instead of “Open Balkan”, the focus should be on the Berlin Process. However, she blamed Serbia for not respecting the decisions.
“From a political and economic point of view, this is absolutely dangerous for Kosovo, Bosnia and Montenegro.”
“This initiative, which was launched by Novi Sad, did not include Kosovo as equal to other countries.”
Osmani also said that the Open Balkans is an attempt to leave the Berlin Process.
Osmani said that there is only one solution for peace and stability in the region, and that is the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia.
She further blamed some actors who try to bill Kosovo as non-cooperative in the dialogue with Serbia, saying that it is Serbia that does not contribute to the progress of the dialogue.
“Kosovo has always contributed, while Serbia has not made any proposal, our cooperation is seen every day, something that must be urgently resolved in dialogue is the issue of the missing.”
“Serbia has rejected any proposal and has focused on terrible insults during the negotiation process… Serbia is still trying to make Kosovo look bad,” she said.
Osmani also said that Serbia cannot pretend to be pro-European, as long as they are not.
“We have had military exercises, all countries cooperated in exercises, including Greece, but there is only one country that has refused to be part of the organization, and that is Serbia,
“On the same day, Serbia organized exercises with Russia in Belarus,” Osmani said.
Osmani has announced Kosovo’s applications to international and regional organizations, after the expiration of the one-year moratorium signed in Washington last year.
However, she said that Kosovo will not apply without the security and full support of international partners.
The President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani has reiterated once again that in the dialogue with Serbia, they will not talk about the territorial integrity of Kosovo, and about the independence which was declared on February 17, 2008.
Balkans towards insecurity without Merkel? (DW Albanian, media)
Chancellor Merkel’s farewell visit to the Western Balkans has been widely reported in the German press.
“Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ” headlines “Looking to China” writes that Chancellor Merkel stressed in the Balkans the importance of the region for the European Union.
“EU member states must always keep in mind that ‘there is an absolutely strategic interest’ for us, to accept these countries in the EU,” Merkel said in Belgrade. […] With this, without mentioning it by name, Merkel made a statement on China’s increasing economic and political influence in the region.”
FAZ also pays attention to the almost paralysis of the EU membership process after Croatia’s accession in 2013. It is about the EU’s readiness to accept new members.Merkel spoke of “a concern for the functioning institutional capacity.” The case of Belgrade, the unresolved conflict over the status of Kosovo, is added to this, writes FAZ. Asked about whether Serbia should recognize Kosovo, whether it will become an EU member, Merkel said that ‘some issues are resolved at the end of a process. Everyone knows that Kosovo has not been recognized by some EU countries. And it does not make sense to talk about the last problem, without first solving other problems.’ FAZ underlines that Merkel took Germany as an example, stressing how long it lasted until with the agreement Two plus Four in 1990” clarity was created.
The Rheinische Post, under the headline “Disappointing balance in the Balkans”, writes that since 2005, for the first time as Chancellor during her trip to the Balkans, Merkel has announced how new perspectives are needed for the region after the bloody wars. But still today the prospect of membership is sluggish and other powerful actors want to take their place on this open wing of Europe. This weakens Europe. But at the end of her term as chancellor, Merkel can only appeal to the EU, and ensure that the Balkans will also be a matter of the heart for her successor. This is very little and therefore her visit, despite the great appreciation of the partners in the talks for her engagement, brings the premonition that after Merkel’s era, problems and conflicts could become aggravated.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper in its article “Little Attention to the Balkans,” writes that the Western Balkans, as the six aspiring countries for EU membership are called, has never been a priority of the chancellor’s foreign policy.
But Merkel has not been uninterested either. Even at the height of the Greek debt crisis in 2015, Merkel found time to go to Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Tirana.” Officially, Berlin supports the far-reaching goal of EU enlargement, writes NZZ, but its indefinite implementation will remain an illusion. For Merkel, stability has been important, following the bloody wars in the region, and this has been largely achieved. But the big issues remained unresolved. EU-led talks between Kosovo and Serbia are moving slowly to no avail. Elsewhere there is regression. Because of the Albanian-Serbian contradiction, Rama and Vuicic were respected, despite the authoritarian tendencies of both politicians,” a concept that in the region with contempt is defined as ‘stability.’
The German newspaper Tageszeitung, under the headline “A melancholy farewell to the unknown”, asks whether the perspective of the Western Balkans after Merkel’s departure will be taken out of focus. Citizens in the Balkans see the end of the Merkel era with mixed feelings, because she was seen in those areas as an anchor of hope and stability. It’s unclear what will come of it, so it increases uncertainty. The atmosphere in the population of these countries is determined by sympathy and respect for Merkel, despite the criticism, reports the newspaper adding that Merkel never gave up on the prospect of Western Balkan integration into the EU, even though she did not succeed at this point.
“TAZ writes that Merkel will be remembered with her ‘No’ to the policy of President Trump who proposed the exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia in 2019, which clearly defined the inviolability of borders in the Balkans. This position has already been accepted in the EU. “
Minister Libur Aliu brings details about the Agreement in Belgrade (media)
The Minister of Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure Liburn Aliu said that the agreement signed in Belgrade is about the modernization of corridors and railway lines.
He clarified that it was requested at the meeting to build a line from Prishtina to Nis, but according to him, this project would have effect only if it is connected with Durres.
“This year that we are in, has been announced by the EU as the year of the railways, to modernize the corridors and railway lines, to enable a normal transport between the Balkan countries.”
“What I have raised next is the issue of new corridors, it was requested to make a line from Pristina to Nis, but this would make sense if it would be connected to Durres, and this means that we have a circulation of goods.”
Aliu participated in the Railway Summit in which together with his counterparts from the countries of the region, signed an agreement for the construction of a railway network.
On February 14 2020, the delegations from Kosovo and Serbia agreed in Munich on highways and railways through which both countries express readiness to open existing roads, but also to build new roads connecting the two countries with the region. and with the EU.
Uran Ismaili hands over his MP mandate: I want to dedicate myself to Prishtina (media)
The candidate for mayor of Pristina from the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Uran Ismaili has resigned from the mandate of deputy of the Assembly of Kosovo
In his speech, Ismaili said that now his will and desire is to dedicate himself completely to Pristina, as a candidate for mayor.
“I have made the decision to be fully committed to our city – Pristina – and I will give everything I have for this purpose,” Ismaili said.
In the last parliamentary elections, Uran Ismaili was the most voted from the ranks of PDK and among the most voted in Kosovo, with about 27 thousand votes.
AAK decides to hold only five days of pre-election campaign (RTK)
The leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj has announced that given the serious epidemiological situation with COVID-19, AAK has decided to limit the conventional campaign for local elections to five days.
Haradinaj in a post on Facebook writes that the five-day campaign will be conducted in full compliance with the recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus.
Albin Kurti testifies in court about threat he received from Haxhi Hoti in 2019 (Klan)
The Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti was heard as a witness in the case where the former candidate for MP from the Social Democratic Initiative Haxhi Hoti, is being accused of threatening him.
Hoti is accused that by writing a post on the social network “Facebook” in December 2019, “Albin Kurti must leave Kosovo, or he will be killed,” he committed the criminal offense of incitement to commit the criminal offense of murder, reports The Oath of Justice.
In the session which is being held today in the Basic Court in Prishtina, Prime Minister Kurti, gave his testimony, answering the questions of the prosecutor Javorka Prilincevi dhe and the defense counsel of the accused, lawyer Rasim Hoti.
Special Prosecutor issues two requests for arrest warrant against three individuals (RTK)
The Special Prosecution of Kosovo has made two requests for the issuance of an arrest warrant for three persons suspected of various criminal offenses.
The first request for an arrest warrant is against a person for the criminal offense of war crimes against the civilian population under applicable law and international conventions.
Meanwhile, the second request of the arrest warrant is against two persons, for criminal offenses of participation or organization of an organized criminal group and abuse of official position or authority.
Serbian Language Media
Vucic on Kurti’s announcement of reciprocity: You cannot influence irrational moves (KoSSev)
“It is important for us to preserve the security of our people in Kosovo and Metohija as much as possible, and what will be the verdict against Ivan Todosijevic,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said when asked how he assessed the new announcement by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti on introducing reciprocity to Serbia.
Portal KoSSev notes that ”the president is trying to ignore the announcement of the Kosovo prime minister and the security of Serbs is more important to him”. Which is why exactly why he is waiting to see what the third verdict will be for the president of the Provisional Authority of the municipality of Zvecan, Ivan Todosijevic, who was sentenced to two years in prison in the first and second instance proceedings.
That is of key importance for Serbia, the president said.
When it comes to respecting the Brussels agreement, Vucic says that he is waiting to see whether Pristina will do it or not
“And to influence irrational moves is absolutely impossible. You can’t change anything there,” he said.
The President of Serbia attended today the display of weapons and military equipment of the Ministry of Defense and the Serbian Army as part of the celebration of the Day of National Unity, Freedom and the National Flag of Serbia.
KoSSev reports that this afternoon, Vucic will hold a meeting in Belgrade with the representatives of the Serbian List and the candidates for mayors in the upcoming local elections in Kosovo.
Selakovic: If Pristina launches its recognition campaign, we know what to do (RTS, Kosovo Online)
Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said today that Belgrade is committed to dialogue with Pristina, because that is the only way to find a solution for Kosovo.
Selakovic told RTS that Belgrade will remain committed to the negotiations.
“If Pristina launches its recognition campaign, we know what to do, we have talked about it several times,” Selakovic said.
When asked about the fact that Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani asked Germany for support in obtaining new recognitions of Kosovo and joining international organizations, Selakovic said that Belgrade’s position was clear, and that Belgrade was committed to dialogue.
“We believe that dialogue is the only way to find a solution to the problems in Kosovo and Metohija. We will continue to be committed to negotiations. That is our clear position. If Pristina launches its recognition campaign, we know what to do; we have spoken about it many times,” said Minister Selakovic.
The EC president announced a visit to the Western Balkans by the end of the month (Danas, Beta)
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen announced that she would visit the Western Balkans in September, emphasizing that investing in the future of that region is investing in the future of the European Union, reported daily Danas.
“Before the end of the month, I will go to the region to send a clear signal of our commitment to the enlargement process,” Von der Leyen said in her speech on the state of the Union.
“We owe it to all young people who believe in the future, in Europe,” she added.
Addressing members of the European Parliament, Von der Leyen said that the EU is therefore strengthening its support through a new Economic and Investment Plan.
“Investing in the future of the Western Balkans is investing in the future of the EU,” the EC president said.
The DFC continues to work with governments to promote economic opportunities in the region (VoA)
The United States is committed to supporting private sector investment and economic development in Serbia, Kosovo and the wider region, it was said in a response from the American Corporation for International Development Finance (DFC) to a Voice of America inquiry.
“The DFC continues to work with governments to promote economic opportunities in the region,” an unnamed spokesman told VOA.
It is important for the Balkans, as a guarantor of project financing in cooperation with the private sector, which was supposed to contribute to the economic rapprochement of Serbia and Kosovo, after the Washington Agreement was signed in the White House in September 2020 in the presence of former US President Donald Trump through former envoy for dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo – Richard Grenell.
However, the Voice of America was not provided with answers to questions about the progress made in the development projects of Kosovo and Serbia, which should strengthen their economic ties, or the expected dynamics for the completion of those projects.
The headquarters of that organization was opened in Belgrade at the end of September 2020, shortly after the signing of the Washington Agreement, which was defined in the document.
Specifically, cooperation with its help was supposed, among other things, to be realized on the construction of the “Peace Highway”, which would connect Pristina and Belgrade, railways on the route Pristina – Merdare, as well as Nis – Pristina, but according to available data it seems that apart from signing documents, little has been achieved in practice, reported VoA.
Bieber: Merkel has supported Serbia’s undemocratic regime to some extent (N1)
Angela Merkel, the outgoing German Chancellor, has to a certain extent supported the authoritarian, undemocratic development in the Western Balkans, particularly in Serbia, Florian Bieber, a professor at the Graz University’s South-eastern Studies, said on Tuesday.
He joined critics from within and outside Serbia who accused Merkel of backing Aleksandar Vucic’s regime seen by some other foreign politicians and local opposition as far from being up to the democratic standards.
“She (Merkel) was not critical enough about the crisis of democracy in Serbia and Vucic,” Bieber told N1, commenting on the Chancellor’s farewell visit to Belgrade.
He adds the visit per se is not a support but means Merkel sees Serbia as an important country and that thus it is vital to visit it.
Bieber said that from the German perspective, it has always been clear that the outcome of the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations would be some Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo.
However, he added the problem was in what the European Union could offer Serbia and Kosovo as a reward for the end of negotiations.
According to him, the EU could not offer ‘a fast membership’ because some countries could block either Belgrade or Pristina and because the state of democracy in Serbia was so problematic.
Bieber believes that Merkel’s policy in the Western Balkans has some good points but that she “hasn’t been fully engaged”.
According to Bieber, the Berlin Process is not a flawed initiative but is not deep and strategic enough to change negative trends in the region.
Contrary to Merkel, who said that Vucic stood by his promises, Bieber said the authorities in Serbia made pledges and then turned to another side.
He added the harmonisation with the EU foreign policy was not as necessary as domestic reforms. But, judging by Belgrade foreign policy, it could be seen that Serbia was not ready to do whatever was needed to align the country with the bloc.
Bieber said Albania and Serbia were key countries in the Western Balkans, mainly because of the Open Balkan initiative. According to him, Vucic and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama are the strongest leaders in the region. Still, the visit to them sends a problematic message that they are more masters than politicians, the professor says.
Petkovic: ‘’Everything is ready for the celebration of the National Flag Day on KiM’’ (TV Most)
The Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petkovic announced on Facebook that everything was ready to mark the Day of Serbian Unity, Freedom and the National Flag of the Republic of Serbia in Kosovo.
“Everything is ready to mark the Day of Serbian Unity, Freedom and the National Flag of the Republic of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija! Serbian communities throughout KiM are decorated with the Serbian tricolor, and our citizens proudly display the Serbian flag! There is no holier value for our people in Kosovo and Metohija than harmony and unity!”, wrote the director of the Office for KiM, Petar Petkovic wrote in a Facebook post.
Dacic on Kurti’s announcements: The time of the election campaign (RTK2, Nova S, TV Pink)
The President of the Assembly of Serbia, Ivica Dacic stated today that it was not possible that “the people accused of genocide were almost exterminated in the areas in which they lived”, reported RTK2, citing Belgrade based media.
Dacic told Pink TV, on the announcement of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti that he would sue Serbia for genocide, that the statement showed that “the time for election campaigns has come”.
“If you commit genocide, how is it possible that the people accused of genocide are almost exterminated, and there are more Albanians than there were,” said Dacic.
At the Merdare crossing, the reciprocity measure for the vehicle plates from Serbia not applied (KoSSev, KiM radio, RTK2)
Media reported today that this morning cars with Serbian license plates enter Kosovo unhindered through the Merdare crossing, citing KoSSev portal reports from the field.
The introduction of such a measure after September 15 was announced by the Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, Besnik Bislimi from Brussels, and only a day before the meeting of the Belgrade and Pristina delegations.
He then said that Kosovo would not accept the extension of the interim agreement on license plates after September 15, Gazeta Express reported.
As he stated at the time, Kosovo will behave the same as Serbia when it comes to cars with Kosovo license plates (RKS), warning of reciprocity.
Rakic: The Serbian list and the candidates for mayors received support from President Vucic (Kosovo Online)
The Serbian list and the candidates for mayors in the upcoming Kosovo elections received the full support of President Aleksandar Vucic, said the leader of the Serbian List, Goran Rakic, after the meeting with the President of Serbia in Belgrade, reported portal Kosovo Online.
After the meeting, Rakic told reporters that the topics of conversation with the president were the political, security and economic situation in which the Serbian people are in Kosovo, as well as the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
“Of course, dialogue and finding a compromise solution is something that is unquestionable, and President Vucic continues to work on it and will continue to work on it. The question is how sincere the other side is in all this, but what we have received are firm guarantees and assurances from President Vucic that he will continue to fight for our people and that he will continue to fight for dialogue,” stated Rakic.
The president of the Serbian List added that whenever there is no dialogue, there are problems on the ground, attacks on Serbian property, on Serbian churches and physical attacks on Serbs because, he adds, they are guilty only because they are Serbs.
Rakic announced that the state of Serbia and President Vucic will additionally financially help the Serbian people in Kosovo.
Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic also announced that the candidates of the Serbian List received support from President Vucic in upcoming elections in Kosovo.
“Only together, united and in harmony with our state, the Republic of Serbia, can we help our people in Kosovo and Metohija,” said Petkovic.
He announced another meeting with President Vucic in the next ten days, as well as the state’s additional economical help to people in Kosovo.
Vucic: Elections to be held on April 3 or 17 (Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced today that elections in the country would be held on April 3 or 17 next year and added that he would like the opposition to take part.
“We would like them to run in the elections,” Vucic said.
“And finally win,” he added ironically.
He was responding to a reporter’s question about opposition threats to take to the streets again in case of a repeat of “fake elections.”
“The elections will be held on April 3 or 17, but what kind of elections they will have, I do not know… They have to run in elections and win to come to power,” Vucic noted.
Leaders of dubious motives (KoSSev)
By Belul Beqaj
Despite the visible public differences between the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic and the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti there is one common denominator that poses a greater danger in relation to their differences. It is their increasingly obvious aspiration to impose themselves as unequivocal national leaders of all Serbs, i.e. Albanians.
Dear friend, the political processes in our relations are mostly evaluated based on created public impressions. Real processes point to clear indications that our leaders’ plans have an end. They want to impose themselves as national “saviors”, although they have not yet proven themselves as such.
Since their plans have a dubious end, our leaders do not know when, how, where and with whom they should continue, that is, to stop the start of the process of dialogue. However, they do everything to eliminate the dangers that pose a risk to their government! Therefore, they ignore possible consequences, obstacles and opportunities.
What is prepared, but cannot be seen and cannot be noticed clearly, few people consider. It is precisely because of this context that our leaders strive, at all costs, to create the impression of individuals open to dialogue and agreements.
From day to day, they remove all obstacles, so they are the inviolable ones. They are becoming more and more powerful, because the political processes and the destiny of the citizens increasingly depend on them, and less and less on democratic institutions. Their inviolability dangerously narrows civic sovereignty and the survival of citizens in our states. The mass exodus of young people and professionals does not subside!
Acting in cooperation with “authoritarian-political” twins and thanks to non-professional media, our leaders manage to convince citizens that their destiny depends mostly on them, and less and less on institutions! The present and future of ordinary citizens increasingly depend on them while they are increasingly “independent” of citizens.
Our leaders, except real opponents, also create false enemies who impeccably obey their demands. In this way, they strengthen their power as much as they increase the number of helpless citizens. Despite the crisis situation, I have the impression that the citizens will suffer under these circumstances until they reveal secrets of their real motives in public policies.
Given the domestic and international context of the circumstances, I am afraid it will take time…
Because, despite the visible public differences between the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic and the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti there is one common denominator that represents a greater danger in relation to their differences.
It is their increasingly obvious aspiration to impose themselves as unequivocal national leaders of all Serbs, i.e. Albanians. As their public “care” for their minorities outside their states becomes more and more apparent, their true intention is to become the bearers of the nation-state project.
Precisely because of this, I get the impression that the real goal of the dialogue is no longer the implementation of signed agreements between Serbia and Kosovo, but the agreement between Aleksandar Vucic and Albin Kurti on the creation of ethnic states, regardless of the consequences of this scenario to the region and international relations!
Therefore, dear friend, I think that day by day it is becoming increasingly obvious that the main obstacle to dialogue for a comprehensive legally binding agreement that includes the recognition of the state of Kosovo is actually the hidden intention of our leaders (and the tacit indifference of some states) that all Serbs live, that is Albanians, in one state! Of course, everyone in their own way wisely flatters their nation, with the wholehearted help of the controlled media, while they publicly hypocritically present themselves as interested models of compromise. However, given the uncertainty in the realization of personal political motives, their fear becomes more dangerous if they make a mistake because of their hidden intentions. That is why, lately, they have been sacrificing others as “Turkish heads” for the realization of their hidden intentions.
In this way, they create a fog in front of international factors so that their intentions are not doubted, while they act as if nothing is happening?!
Dear friend, although I am against ethnic states, I am aware that there are serious problems with us and in interethnic states. However, I believe that solutions to interethnic problems are not achieved by creating new ethnic states, on the contrary. Experience to date has shown that ethnic states are usually homogenized in the first phase, then in the second phase they are mostly transformed into hegemonic states.
I guess we learned a historical lesson that should not be forgotten! Less than 10% of the world’s countries are ethnically homogeneous. What would be our and the destiny of the world, if our examples, to some extent, encouraged the wave of ethnic groups in more than 90% of the countries in the world that have a heterogeneous ethnic composition?!
OpEd by Political scientist Belul Beqaj in ‘’Dialogue with Milivoje Mihajlovic’’, as part of the KoSSev project “Pristina Connection”
Kosovo’s Wartime ‘Commander Cali’ Emerges from the Shadows (BIRN)
Salih Mustafa is the first person to go on trial at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague for alleged crimes committed during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, more than two decades since he laid down his arms after fighting against Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslav regime.
Since the war, Mustafa has worked for Kosovo’s intelligence services and has maintained a low profile, but his trial, which begins on Wednesday, is likely to change that.
In wartime, Mustafa was the commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army’s BIA unit, an acronym made up of the initials of killed guerrilla fighters Bahri Fazliu, Ilir Konushevci and Agron Rrahmani.
According to his indictment, the unit had around 500 to 600 fighters. It operated in villages in northern Kosovo within the KLA’s Llap Operational Zone, mostly in the Podujeve/Podujevo region, some 20 kilometres north-west of the capital Pristina.
The indictment of Mustafa consists of four counts: arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder. It charges Mustafa, on the basis of individual criminal responsibility and criminal responsibility as a commander, with crimes committed by KLA members against prisoners.
It claims that between April 1 and 19, 1999, Mustafa and his subordinates illegally jailed at least six people in a stable for cattle that the KLA used as a detention compound in the mountainous village of Zllash/Zlas in the Pristina municipality.
It also claims that they “routinely assaulted detainees… both physically, including through 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 indictment continues.
In addition to these allegations, the indictment also says that Mustafa is believed to have bragged about the Serbs who he and members of his BIA unit executed.
Mustafa, who was born in Pristina 49 years ago and was known during the war by the KLA nom de guerre of Commander Cali, pleaded not guilty on all counts.
“I had no choice but to go to war for freedom and the democratic institutions of my state,” he told the court.
See more at: https://bit.ly/3lnHnG5
Ex-rebel denies war crimes as Kosovo tribunal opens first trial (Reuters)
A special tribunal in The Hague investigating allegations of atrocities committed by Kosovo pro-independence fighters opened its first case on Wednesday, against a commander accused of torturing prisoners during the 1998-1999 conflict with Serbia.
At the start of his trial, Salih Mustafa, 50, pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes, comparing the court to the Nazi secret police.
“I am not guilty of any of the counts brought here before me by this Gestapo office,” Mustafa told judges.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a Kosovo court seated in the Netherlands and staffed by international judges and lawyers, was set up in 2015 to handle cases under Kosovo law against fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). It is separate from a U.N. tribunal, which was also located in The Hague and tried Serbian officials for crimes committed in the same conflict.
The Kosovo tribunal’s highest-profile suspect is former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who turned himself in last year to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In the court’s first case, Mustafa faces charges of murder, accused of running a prison unit where inmates where subjected to daily beatings and torture.
Prosecutor Jack Smith said Mustafa’s victims were fellow Kosovo Albanians “whose only crime was to have political views that differed from the KLA and its leaders”.
See more at: https://bit.ly/3Engiv4
Relationship between Berlin Process and Open Balkan discussed during Merkel’s Tirana visit (EWB)
TIRANA – German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed during yesterday’s press conference with Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama that the Berlin Process should be the centerpiece of the regional cooperation.
The conference took place in the Albanian capital, during Merkel’s final visit to the Western Balkans as German Chancellor. On Monday, Merkel visited Belgrade, where she met with President Aleksandar Vučić.
Following the introductory remarks, one of the journalists’ questions directed to Rama was whether Open Balkan or the Berlin Process should prevail on the agenda. Chancellor Merkel responded to the question as well.
See more at:https://bit.ly/3EuC14H
Serb Unity Day triggers worries across the Balkans (AP)
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia kicked off a new national holiday on Wednesday with a display of military power and calls for all Serbs in the Balkans to unite under one flag, triggering unease among its neighbors decades after similar calls led to the bloody wars in the 1990s.
Serbs were told to display thousands of red, blue and white national flags wherever they live in the region or the world to mark “The Day of Serb Unity, Freedom and the National Flag.”
Opening the full day of celebrations, Serbia’s populist President Aleksandar Vucic inspected military hardware displayed in a Belgrade park, praising the army’s readiness to respond to outside threats.
See more at:https://bit.ly/3hxUKlG