Montenegrin police said on Thursday that Kosovo citizen Illir Berisha is being held on an Interpol ‘red notice’ seeking his arrest and extradition to Pristina to face charges of committing war crimes against civilians – the third suspect to be arrested in the country for alleged Kosovo war crimes in the past two weeks.
Montenegrin police ordered 48-year-old Berisha into extradition custody after he was arrested in the coastal town of Herceg Novi.
“Berisha is wanted by Interpol NCB UNMIK [the Interpol office in Kosovo] to ensure his presence in the criminal proceedings that are being conducted against him due to the well-founded suspicion that he committed the criminal offence of war crimes against the civilian population,” Montenegro’s Police Directorate said in a statement.
On October 1, Montenegrin police also arrested a Serb from Kosovo, Zivko Vuksanovic, 62, who the Kosovo authorities want to try for war crimes.
On September 25, 61-year-old Momcilo Bulatovic, another Serb from Kosovo, was arrested. Bulatovic is accused of committing war crimes against civilians in the area around the town of Pec/Peja in 1999.
The Higher Court in Bijelo Polje ordered Vuksanovic and Bulatovic into extradition custody.
On October 1, Milan Knezevic, one of the leaders of the pro-Serbian For the Future of Montenegro party, urged the Montenegrin authorities to stop arresting Serbs for alleged war crimes.
He said that Kosovo is not recognised as a state by pro-Serbian parties in Montenegro.
“We certainly will not tolerate this kind of terror against the Serbs that they’re trying to spread to Montenegro as well. Especially since Montenegro has become a haven for the most hardened criminals around the world who pay for their freedom by corrupting the relevant institutions,” Knezevic wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The Montenegrin authorities haven’t commented on the arrests.
As a part of Yugoslavia, Montenegro participated in the 1990s wars, although there was no fighting on its own territory. Since the country became independent in 2006, it has held just eight trials for war crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, and only low-level perpetrators have been brought to court.
The only verdict in Montenegro issued for war crimes in Kosovo has been in the case of former Yugoslav Army soldier Vlado Zmajevic, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the murder of four ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo in 1999.
Montenegro’s Court of Appeal in December 2019 upheld the verdict convicting Zmajevic of killing the civilians in the village of Zegra, near Gjilan/Gnjilane during the Kosovo war.
In its last progress report on Montenegro on October 2022, the European Commission said that the country continued to implement its war crimes prosecution strategy with limited achievements.
Source : Balkan Insight