Ministry of Justice. Photo: BIRN

Kosovo Seeks Extradition of War Crimes Defendants from Serbia

Kosovo’s Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu asked Serbia for the extradition of two Kosovo citizens charged with war crimes against civilians, claiming they were being subjected to “serious human rights violations”.

Kosovo’s Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu said on Sunday that she has written to her Serbian counterpart Maja Popovic asking for Nezir Mehmetaj and Petrit Dula, who have both been charged with war crimes by Serbia, to be sent back to Kosovo, despite the lack of legal cooperation between the two countries.

“In the absence of legal acts that formalise international legal cooperation in criminal matters between our two countries, but knowing that regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are a basic condition for integration into the EU and in the light of efforts for the full normalisation of relations between our two countries, through this letter I request from you the transfer of Mr. Neziraj and Mr. Dula to the Republic of Kosovo,” Haxhiu wrote.

She also said in a post on Facebook that the legal processes in the cases against the two men have involved “serious human rights violations for years”.

BIRN contacted Serbia’s Ministry of Justice for a comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Nezir Mehmetaj was arrested in 2020 at the Merdare border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia. He has been in detention in Serbia ever since.

He is accused of participation in war crimes against civilians in the village of Rudice in the Klina municipality of Kosovo in June and July 1999. The Serbian prosecution claims he was involved in killing seven people and burning and looting ten houses belonging to non-Albanians in Rudice as a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.

He is also accused of harassing members of the Roma and Egyptian ethnic minorities in Rudice. Mehmetaj has denied the accusations, saying he was not in Kosovo during the war in 1999.

Petrit Dula was found guilty by Belgrade Higher Court in November 2022 of committing a war crime by assaulting a civilian in a village near the town of Djakovica/Gjakova in Kosovo in June 1999 while he was a KLA member. The verdict was a first-instance ruling and can be appealed.

There is an agreement on mutual legal assistance between Kosovo and Serbia that was brokered by the European Union in 2013, through which the two countries can exchange judicial requests via EU representatives. But there is little legal cooperation and there have been no extraditions.

Court monitors have highlighted repeated delays in criminal proceedings in Kosovo due to a lack of cooperation from Serbia, particularly when it comes to war crimes offences or cases involving high-profile individuals.

13/03/2023 - 14:39

13 March 2023 - 14:39

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