Locals protest in Gracanica over the arrest of a war crimes suspect on Tuesday. Photo: BIRN/Shkodrane Dakaj.

Kosovo Serbs Rally for Release of War Crimes Suspect

Kosovo Serbs in the town of Gracanica staged the latest in a series of protests calling for the release of a local man who was arrested last week for allegedly committing war crimes while he was a prison guard in 1999.

Dozens of locals gathered on Tuesday in the town of Gracanica, close to the capital Pristina in central Kosovo, in the latest of a series of demonstrations against last week’s arrest of a Kosovo Serb man on war crime charges.

They held up banners and placards with slogans like “Freedom for all the arrested Serbs” and pledges of trust in Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Locals protested for three days in a row last week after the Serb man was arrested in Gracanica on suspicion of committing war crimes against ethnic Albanians while he was a prison guard during the 1998-99 conflict.

On June 22, a day after the arrest, the Basic Court of Pristina imposed a 30-day detention order on the suspect, who the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo has identified as Dragisa Milenkovic.

According to the Kosovo Police, the suspect was responsible for the “torture, physical and psychological violence, ill-treatment and inhumane and life-threatening mistreatment of Albanian prisoners” in prisons in Pristina and Lipjan/Lipljan, in collaboration with other guards.

But the Serbian authorities have claimed that he was arrested “as part of [Kosovo Prime Minister Albin] Kurti’s revenge plan against the Serbs, whose lives he is making miserable every day in order to force them to leave their centuries-old home”.

The situation has been tense in Kosovo since the end of May amid protests by locals in the Serb-majority municipalities North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Zvecan, and Leposavic, in the north of the country, after a Serb boycott of local elections led to ethnic Albanian mayors being installed in the municipalities.

Kosovo police announced that on Monday evening, two hand grenades were thrown at the municipality building in North Mitrovica, causing damage to vehicles.

On June 19, hundreds of Kosovo Serbs in northern Kosovo, led by medical workers, marched from North Mitrovica to Zvecan, where workers from the Trepca mine joined them, demonstrating against recent arrests of Serbs suspected of attacks on Kosovo journalists during the protests.

Around 30 attacks against journalists have been recorded by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo.

On May 29, Serb protesters violently clashed with soldiers from NATO’s peacekeeping force KFOR, and 30 soldiers and around 50 protesters were injured.

and 27/06/2023 - 13:30

27 June 2023 - 13:30

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