Former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Sylejman Selimi and three other ex-fighters were cleared of abusing prisoners at a KLA detention centre during the late 1990s conflict.
Selimi, who is Pristina’s current ambassador to Tirana and Kosovo’s former security forces commander, was acquitted along with his three former comrades by a court in the northern town of Mitrovica on Thursday of war crimes during the conflict with Serbian forces.
The court ruled that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the charges filed by EU rule-of-law mission (EULEX) prosecutors.
“The evidence was not proved because a long time has passed since it [the alleged crime] happened,” EULEX judge Philip Kanning said.
Selimi was accused of repeatedly assaulting two ethnic Albanian women who were being held at a KLA detention centre in Likovc/Likovac during the conflict at the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999.
“The defendant in the capacity of a high-profile KLA member, in co-perpetration with some other unidentified KLA members, violated the bodily integrity of Witness A and Witness B, two Albanian civilians, by continuously beating them up,” the indictment alleged.
The other defendants were Shefki Hyseni, Nexhat Qubreli and Ismet Haxha.
The indictment was mainly based on the testimonies of the two female victims from the Mitrovica region.
Hyseni was accused of raping Witness A, while Haxha and Qubreli allegedly mistreated both witnesses at a KLA base in Vaganica.
“We [the court] still believe something happened in Vaganica in Mitrovica, but we were not able to prove the evidence given by witnesses A and B,” judge Kanning said.
The defence welcomed the verdict, describing it as “just and credible”. The prosecution has the right to appeal.
Although acquitted of these charges, Selimi also faces another war crimes trial in the high-profile ‘Drenica Group’ case.
He and several other ex-KLA fighters are accused of a series of separate crimes against civilian prisoners at the Likovc/Likovac detention centre. They have denied the charges.