Kosovo Protests Over Serbian ‘War Crimes’ Arrest


By Arben Qirezi

Pristina’s foreign ministry sent a protest note to Belgrade after the second arrest of a Kosovo Albanian in recent weeks, as Serbia released a police director who was held for over a month.

Kosovo’s foreign ministry sent a note of protest to the Serbian authorities on Tuesday over the arrest of Hilmi Kelmendi, a Kosovo Albanian resident of Germany, who it said had been held on war crimes charges.

Kelmendi, who was a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1998-99 war, was arrested on Saturday.

His brother, Selman Kelmendi, told BIRN that his brother is charged with participating in a fight against members of the Ashkali ethnic minority who live in their home village of Piskota in western Kosovo.

He said that Kelmendi was remanded in custody for 30 days by a court in Belgrade.

The charges could not be confirmed because the Serbian authorities have not yet issued any information about his arrest.

BIRN contacted Kosovo’s foreign ministry for further information about the case but received no reply by the time of publication.

The ministry sent the protest note on the same day as the Serbian authorities released Nehat Thaci, Kosovo’s regional police director for the Mitrovica area, who was detained while entering Serbia on September 28 on terrorism charges.

It remains unclear whether the charges against Thaci were dropped or not.

The Kosovo foreign minister’s chief of staff, Bashmir Xhemaj, suggested that his release came as a result of diplomatic pressure on Serbia.

Xhemaj wrote on social media that the release was the result of “diplomacy in action”.

Kosovo’s foreign ministry warned people on Monday not to use Serbia as a transit country and “avoid it as much as possible in the coming months” because they could be arrested.

Many former Kosovo Liberation Army members are on Serbian wanted lists, accused of terrorism, but most of their names have not been made public.

Those known to be charged include Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, former Prime Minister Agim Ceku, the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party, Ramush Haradinaj and other former high-ranking KLA members. Some of them have been temporarily detained while travelling in Europe.

Kosovo has repeatedly demanded that Interpol and its member states do not act upon arrest warrants issued by Serbia.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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