DER SPIEGEL (GERMANY)
translation from German into English by S. Lazovic, KDN News
(German text available at the end of page)
September 21, 2002
The Cruelest Cleansings
The UN police get tougher with Albanian war criminals in Kosovo. New unrest possible, because for many these criminals are still heroes
A strange grave lies in the midst of a large meadow in the village of Crni Luk. There are no names on the four gravestones, and the inhabitants of village of 3,000 react with distrust to questions about the dead. "This is where we buried the charred remains of the Krasniqi clan," says a young Albanian man and adds immediately with a wave of his hand: "But I do not know more than that."
Twenty-four Albanians were shot, among them 13 children, and their houses were burned down. But the victims are not buried in the heroes’ cemetery at the end of the village, where under a sea of Albanian flags rest its former inhabitants killed in clashes with the Serbs. They are not buried there because, according to protected testimony by eyewitnesses, the Krasniqis were apparently executed by their compatriots only after the arrival of KFOR international peacekeeping forces in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.
The four Krasniqi brothers were considered "loyalists to the Serbian regime" and worked in Serbian companies; one of them was even as a journalist for the Serbian language newspaper "Jedinstvo". Under the Milosevic regime they enjoyed privileges; afterwards, this was their death sentence.
The extermination of this family, like other Albanian crimes, could have been quickly hushed up. For since the United Nations made the Kosovo their protectorate in July 1999, they had proceeded against presumed war criminals from the numbers of the Kosovo Albanians only with velvet gloves. But now, more than three years after the NATO takeover, the international community finally dares to also confront its recent allies. Its investigators have even arrested some leaders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who are suspected of committing murder.
Bodies of victims killed by KLA (UCK) and thrown into the Radonjic Lake canal
"Everyone in Kosovo knows but none dares to speak about it," says the former prime minister of the exiled Kosovars and current chairman of the New Party for Kosovo, Bujar Bukoshi. "After the war the cruelest cleansings took place among the Albanians. Under the pretext that they were ‘Serbian collaborators’, the leaders of the KLA liquidated their political opponents; old blood feuds were settled, and Albanian civilians were executed by the Albanians themselves."
The number of the victims is estimated to be more than a thousand. The perpetrators or instigators were usually former senior KLA leaders; after the war they were integrated nearly without exception into the KLA successor organization, the civilian Kosovo Protection Corps.
Allegedly a former KLA commander and two of his fellow soldiers, according to their indictment, instigated a war criminal to kill the former KLA commander Ekrem Rexha known as "Drini". This moderate Albanian had announced the publication of a book on war crimes in Kosovo, including those committed by the KLA. A few hours after Drini’s death KLA deputies visited his widow in order to get “the computer with records on the announced book". However the international police responsible for postwar crimes was faster.
Also awaiting trial since not long ago are once legendary KLA commanders Sami Lushtaki and Rustem Mustafa ("Remi"). The latter is accused, along with three other KLA officers, of having raped Albanian women and killed at least five civilians in private prison camps during and after the war.
Daut Haradinaj, the notorious brother of the former KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj (who in the meanwhile became head of the third largest political party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo), is accused with five other members of the Kosovo Liberation Army of the murder of four members of the Liberal Party (LDK) of Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova.
After arresting an influential KLA commander near the town of Dragas, the police stated that at the same time bomb attacks in the region stopped.
Recently another senior KLA member from Prizren was brought before the investigating judge. He is accused not only of having committed criminal activities but also of being the top agent of the Albanian secret service. The hard disk of his computer in the meanwhile has become a treasure trove of information on war crimes, extortion and Albanian secret service plans.
"We are slowly moving forward," says German Christian Lindmeier, a spokesman for the UN administration in Kosovo (UNMIK). Unnoticed by the public the Hague tribunal has also opened an office in Pristina. Rumors according to which the list of the Hague investigators, in addition to Serb war criminals, also includes three former KLA leaders and now influential politicians – Hashim Thaci, Agim Cheku and Ramush Haradinaj – have been neither confirmed nor denied by the spokesmen of the tribunal. According to Hague tribunal chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, in any case indictments against some Kosovo Albanians will be filed before the end of the year.
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