Former Kosovo rebel commander convicted of war crimes by Hague court

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By Euronews
Mustafa has been sentenced to 26 years by a Hague court
Mustafa has been sentenced to 26 years by a Hague court   -   Copyright  Peter Dejong/AP

For the first time, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander has been found guilty of war crimes at a special tribunal in the Hague.

Salih Mustafa was sentenced to 26 years for murder and torture at a prison he ran during the 1998-99 independence conflict with Serbia.

The judge described the case as a milestone decision. "There seems to be a misconception that these charges were brought against the Kosovo Liberation Army as such or against the people of Kosovo as a whole," Mappie Veldt-Foglia told the court.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the people of Kosovo through the parliament who chose to create and empower this institution."

Mustafa has repeatedly denied the charges.

Mustafa was arrested in 2020 in Kosovo and sent to the Netherlands to stand trial at the European Union-backed Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a branch of the country’s legal system set up specifically to deal with allegations of war crimes committed as ethnic Albanian rebels united in the Kosovo Liberation Army fought a bloody conflict to break away from Serbia in 1998-99.

More than 13,000 people are believed to have died during the uprising in Kosovo when it was still part of Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, although Belgrade still does not recognize it.