Saturday

21st Sep 2019

EU police snatch Serb war crimes suspects

EU police in Kosovo arrested a group of war crimes suspects in a dawn raid on Wednesday (23 September). But the top Serb fugitive, Ratko Mladic, remains at large.

The EU police mission in Kosovo, EULEX, captured four ethnic-Serb men and a woman during an operation in Novo Brdo in north eastern Kosovo at 06.00 am local time. Kosovo police and Nato soldiers also took part.

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Four of the detainees are suspected of killing two ethnic-Albanians in 1999 while the fifth person stands accused of obstruction of justice.

The action comes in the context of the EU mission's rising unpopularity among ethnic Albanians, following the signing of a EULEX agreement with Serbia on cross-border policing earlier this month.

"It will improve our public image among Kosovo Albanians. There are a lot of expectations about EULEX and what we will achieve in terms of fighting serious crimes, such as organised crime, corruption and war crimes," EULEX spokesman Christophe Lamfalussy told EUobserver.

"[But] our prosecutors work independently of any public image concerns," he added.

The five suspects are likely to be tried under local jurisdiction as the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague, the ICTY, is slowly winding up its mandate.

ICTY is expected to shut down in 2012 after the trial of Radovan Karadzic. It is keen to try two more ethnic-Serb war crimes suspects, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, before ending its work. But the men remain at large.

Serbia is planning to submit a formal application for EU membership before the end of this year.

Its legal relationship with the EU is currently on hold after the Netherlands and Belgium in 2008 blocked ratification of Serbia's Stabilisation and Association Agreement, saying that it was not co-operating fully with the Hague.

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