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Kosovo: 2nd former fighter refuses war crimes court summons

VLORA, Albania — A former independence fighter in Kosovo said Tuesday that he would not submit to questioning by a Netherlands-based court investigating crimes against ethnic Serbs during and after the country’s 1998-99 war.

Faik Zogaj is the second former fighter out of 270 summoned so far to refuse to appear at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, according to Hysni Gucati, head of the Organization of War Veterans.

Zogaj said on Facebook he would “not respond to the March 21, 2020 call because personally I do not recognize that court until it sentences the criminals who murdered my loved ones inside home.”

Some 60% of the 270 former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters have been summoned as witnesses and 40% as suspects, Gucati said. They include top Kosovar leaders.

The specialist court’s prosecutor, Jack Smith, signalled Monday he is preparing to bring the first charges, notifying the court president of his intent to start proceedings. A judge must review any indictments and the evidence supporting the charges, a process that may take up to six months. Only then will a suspect be informed of the accusations.

The court and a connected prosecutor’s office have operated since 2015 to handle crimes against humanity and war crimes from the war, which left more than 10,000 people dead.

Many in Kosovo consider the court, which was established by an amendment to Kosovo’s Constitution, to be unfair because Serbian forces carried out massacres during the war. The massacres of civilians led NATO to conduct air strikes that ended the war.

“That is a racist court, unilateral and unfair, because it has been proceeding only Albanian independence fighters and citizens. That is a one-ethnic court,” Gucati alleged.

The court was set up following U.S. and EU pressure four years after a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights body, cataloged allegations of widespread crimes committed by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army against ethnic Serbs.

At the time of the war, Kosovo was a Serbian province and KLA members mostly were ethnic Albanians. A bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists and civilians led NATO to intervene by bombing Serbia in spring 1999.

Kosovo’s 2008 independence has not been recognized by Serbia.

Llazar Semini, The Associated Press