Former KLA Members Guilty of Torture

Three former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, have been found guilty of conducting a torture campaign at a prison camp in the remote Kosovo hills.

Latif Gashi, Nazif Mehmeti and Rrustem Mustafa were convicted on Friday of war crimes committed during the conflict in Kosovo.

Mustafa, known as Remi, was a senior commander in the former KLA and is now an MP for the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and chairperson of the Interior Affairs and National Security Committee in parliament.

The trio, known as the Llapi Group, were found guilty of torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners at a camp in Llapashtica/Lapaštica, situated in the hills of northern Kosovo, near Podujevë/Podujevo.

Civilian detainees were deprived of adequate sanitation, food and water, and necessary medical treatment.

According to information released by the EU rule of law mission, EULEX: “The inhumane treatment of the civilian detainees caused immense suffering and was a violation of the bodily integrity and health of those detainees and constituted an application of measures of intimidation and terror.”

The three were also found to have been behind the beating and torture of Kosovo Albanian civilians held in the detention centre, in an attempt to force confessions of disloyalty to the KLA.

Gashi and Mustafa were also accused of beating and torturing Kosovo Albanian civilians, suspected of betraying the KLA, at a detention centre located in Koliq/Koljic, also near Podujevë/Podujevo. This charge was later withdrawn.

Mehmeti and Mustafa were found guilty of the beating and torture of a Serbian forest ranger, who they imprisoned at detention centres in Bare, Bajgora and other surrounding locations in an attempt to force him to confess to acts against the KLA and to provide intelligence.

On Friday, at Pristina District Court, a mixed panel, comprised of one Kosovo and two EULEX judges, convicted all three men of inhumane treatment and of beating and torturing civilian detainees.

Gashi was sentenced to six years in prison, Mehmeti three and Mustafa four years.

The case was first investigated in 2001 to 2002 and went to trial in 2003, concluding with guilty verdicts and long jail sentences. However, in 2005, the Supreme Court of Kosovo ordered a retrial.

As the trial commenced, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who led the KLA’s political wing during the war, said he was confident that the defendants would be acquitted.

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