Kosovo Ex-Guerrilla Officer Sylejman Selimi Cleared of Assaulting Prisoner

kosovo ex guerrilla officer sylejman selimi cleared of assaulting prisoner
kosovo ex guerrilla officer sylejman selimi cleared of assaulting prisoner

After a marathon legal process, former Kosovo Liberation Army commander and ex-diplomat Sylejman Selimi and another ex-guerrilla were cleared of one of the war crimes charges against them.

More than a decade after legal proceedings began in the case known as ‘Drenica 1’, Prishtina Basic Court found Sylejman Selimi and Jahir Demaku not guilty on Thursday of committing a war crime by beating up a prisoner at a Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA detention centre in the village of Likovc/Likovac.

“This court found that it has not been proven that the accused committed the criminal violation with which they are charged, therefore the court declares them not guilty of all charges,” the judges said.

Selimi was initially arrested in 2013, and he and Demaku were convicted of various war crimes charges, including the assault on the prisoner, in 2015. They were sentenced to seven years in jail each.

However, Kosovo’s Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that there had been a legal violation during the proceedings and ordered a retrial on the charge accusing them of beating up the detainee.

The rest of Selimi and Demaku’s war crimes convictions in the ‘Drenica 1’ case still stand.

Their partial retrial at Mitrovica Basic Court was plagued by delays and the case was then transferred to Pristina Basic Court in March 2023, according to the defence.

In the partial retrial, Selimi and Demaku were accused of committing a war crime for having “violated the physical dignity and health” of the unidentified detainee from the Shipol neighbourhood of Mitrovica on an unspecified date in August or September 1998.

The prosecution alleged that the two defendants repeatedly beat the victim at the KLA’s Likovc/Likovac detention centre in the Skenderaj/Srbica area, citing testimony given by a protected witness codenamed Witness A.

However, presiding judge Ngadhnjim Arrni explained that “the declarations of Witness A, on which the prosecution’s allegations have been based, have not managed to verify who is the person whose physical dignity has been violated [by the accused]”.

“The sole testimony of a witness, without any other evidence, was insufficient [to prove the charges],” judge Arrni added.

Selimi told the court on April 12 this year that he didn’t even know who the alleged victim was.

“Personally, if someone asked me, I don’t even know what this is about, who I beat up, I don’t know who we mistreated,” he said.

“I’ve been dealing with this judicial process for so many years and I do not know the reason why, I do not know who I beat or mistreated,” he added.

Demaku had also insisted he was not guilty, saying that “I do not know what I am being accused of”.

The verdict can be appealed.

In a separate verdict in 2015, Selimi and Demaku were also found guilty of war crimes in the case known as ‘Drenica 2’.

They were convicted of torturing prisoners at the Likovc/Likovac detention centre and sentenced to seven years in prison each. Selimi was released on probation in 2019.

Selimi was a prominent member of the KLA’s well-known Drenica Group of fighters in central Kosovo. Another leading member of the Drenica Group was former President Hashim Thaci, who is currently being tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.

After the war, Selimi was appointed commander of the Kosovo Guard, then commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps. He later became the commander of the Kosovo Security Force, until 2011, when he was appointed as Kosovo’s ambassador to Tirana.

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