Balkan Times

Hague Judge Extends Detention for Kosovo Ex-Commander

Salih Mustafa Kosovo

Salih Mustafa in court in October. Photo: Kosovo Specialist Chambers/Screenshot.

Hague Judge Extends Detention for Kosovo Ex-Commander – A judge at the Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which was set up to try former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA guerrillas for wartime and post-war crimes, ruled on Monday that Salih Mustafa must remain in custody in the Netherlands.

Kastriot Berisha

Turning down a defence request for Mustafa’s release, judge Nicolas Guillou said there was still a risk that he might abscond.

The judge said that the recent disclosure of prosecution evidence to the defence “increases the incentive for Mr Mustafa to flee as it elucidates the seriousness of the charges and makes more concrete the possibility of conviction and the possible imposition of a lengthy sentence”.

He also cited Mustafa’s “links to the Kosovo intelligence apparatus with resultant access to information and resources, and ability to travel freely to countries not requiring a visa” as reasons why he could abscond.

Guillou expressed concern that Mustafa could interfere with witnesses, given his knowledge of the evidence.

He explained that “the limited temporal and geographical scope of the case would facilitate the process of identifying and interfering with the victims and witnesses, especially for an experienced intelligence officer such as Mr Mustafa”.

He said there is also a risk that Mustafa might commit further crimes, because in June 1999 he publicly boasted at a press conference about the execution of Serbs.

Mustafa, known during the war as Commander Cali, was arrested in Kosovo in September 2020 and has been held in custody since then.

He is accused of murder, torture and inhumane treatment.

According to the indictment, Mustafa, together with other members of the KLA, known by the nicknames ‘Tabuti’, ‘Ilmi Vela’, ‘Bimi’, ‘Dardani’ and ‘Afrimi’, illegally detained at least six people at a compound in the village of Zllash/Zlas in April 1999 during the Kosovo war.

The prisoners were locked in a stable and subjected to cruel treatment and torture in order to obtain information or statements, the indictment claims.

Hague Judge Extends Detention for Kosovo Ex-Commander

It also charges Mustafa with involvement in the murder of one of the detainees, claiming he was at the compound in Zllash/Zlas when members of the KLA beat and killed the prisoner.

Mustafa pleaded not guilty at his first court appearance in October.

The Specialist Chambers were set up to try crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.

They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who feared that Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from interference.

But the so-called ‘special court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.

Hague Judge Extends Detention for Kosovo Ex-Commander

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