Salih Mustafa, former UCK Commander in Chief, has been charged with murder, torture, arbitrary detention and cruel treatment.
Prosecutors at a Hague-based international tribunal investigating war crimes committed during Kosovo’s War of Independence in the 1990s have arrested their first suspect – a former commander in chief of the rebellious Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Salih Mustafa, the former KLA commander, has been charged with murder, torture, arbitrary detention and cruel treatment, prosecutors from the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce said on Thursday.
During the 1998-1999 conflict, the KLA consisted of ethnic Albanian rebels who sought the independence of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo.
48-year-old Mustafa was arrested in Kosovo and transferred to a court in the Dutch city, where he appeared before a judge and is now being detained, a statement said.
He was charged in April 1999 with crimes “against at least six people” at a detention center in Zllash, Kosovo.
“It also states that an inmate was murdered at this location,” the statement added.
The murdered prisoner was “selected by certain KLA members and beaten and tortured more severely than the other prisoners,” according to the indictment against him.
The arrest comes months after the court indicted Kosovar President Hashim Thaci for his alleged role in nearly 100 murders during the conflict while he was running the KLA. Thaci was questioned but not formally arrested.
Mustafa, currently a civil servant in the Ministry of Defense, was a KLA member known to have operated in northern Kosovo.
He then headed the secret service of the Kosovo Security Force, a lightly armed emergency force that emerged from the demilitarized KLA.
Confidential files have been leaked
Hysni Gucati of the War Veterans Association said, “The court and its actions are unacceptable to us.”
The association said it had anonymously received thousands of confidential files in the past two months containing the names of witnesses and indictments against former UCK top commanders.
It was not clear if the files were stolen or leaked by someone who was involved in the investigation.
The war veterans said they would make them public, a move a court spokesman warned would undermine the proper administration of justice.
The public prosecutor’s office is investigating how the association came into possession of the documents.
The matter is very delicate in Kosovo, where former rebel commanders still dominate political life.
The 1998-1999 war for Kosovo’s independence from Serbia killed more than 10,000 people – most of them ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. More than 1,600 people are excluded.
The fighting ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.
However, tensions remain to this day as the US and most of the West recognize Kosovo while Belgrade and its allies Russia and China do not.