By Muhamet Brajshori and Igor Jovanovic
Sabit Geci, a former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander accused of committing war crimes against civilians in northern Albania, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Mitrovica district court.
The court found him guilty of charges stemming from his wartime actions at the KLA’s Kukes and Cahan camps. The camps initially served as logistical and training bases, but Geci transformed them into detention facilities for Kosovo Albanians who did not want to participate in the conflict, or who were believed by the KLA to have collaborated with Serbian authorities.
Three accomplices — Aliaj Riza, Shaban Hoti-Rezalla and Haki Rexhepi – were also found guilty of torturing civilians to obtain information and confessions.
Geci, a founding member of the KLA, was a close associate of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci during the war. It remains to be seen, however, whether the prime minister will suffer any political fallout over the verdict.
“This case may have impact on further politically isolating the prime minister but it can hardly have a direct impact,” Balkan Policy Institute-IPOL Executive Director Seb Bytyci told SETimes.
The ruling comes as EULEX prepares to investigate allegations that the KLA was involved in organ trafficking during the war. Rumours about the supposed trafficking have circulated for years, and were officially raised in a 2010 report by the Council of Europe’s rapporteur, Dick Marty, who specifically implicated Thaci. The same report alleges that Geci tortured and shot to death a civilian in Kukes.
The trial was carefully followed in Serbia because of the references to the two camps in northern Albania. Families of abducted Kosovo Serbs claim they have known since 1998 that the missing were transported there.
“Influential Albanians came and told us that our relatives are detained in Albania in order to be exchanged for Albanians held in Serbian jails. [Dick Marty’s] report said the Serbs who were abducted from Orahovac were last seen alive at the crossing with Albania, i.e., in a camp in Kuks (Kukes),” said Olgica Bozanic, a representative of the Association of Families of Kidnapped and Missing Persons.
“If we were previously believed, perhaps some of our relatives would be still alive. But it seems that even today, there is no will to investigate crimes against Serbs”, she told SETimes.
EULEX spokesperson Blerim Krasniqi said the Geci verdict is “not related to Dick Marty’s report”.
Bytyci agreed the connection is not clear. “Marty’s report contains various stories that are not always consistent and connected with each other, so it is difficult to say that the Geci case relates to Marty’s allegations.”