Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

The special Kosovo court in The Hague dismissed the appeal of Salih Mustafa, a former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander, maintaining his convictions for torture, murder, and arbitrary detention. Mustafa’s landmark case marked the court’s first war crimes conviction.

Despite upholding the convictions, the court reduced his original 26-year sentence to 22 years. Presiding judge Michele Picard emphasized that the reduction did not diminish the severity of the crimes.

Mustafa, also known as “Commander Cali,” was found guilty of running a makeshift torture center where detainees, accused of spying for Serb forces, endured brutal assaults. The court revealed deplorable conditions, inadequate food, and regular beatings, including mock executions and electric shocks. One victim, denied medical care, succumbed to mistreatment, contributing to his death.

Throughout the proceedings, Mustafa, who compared the court to a “Gestapo office,” pleaded not guilty, insisting that the prosecution’s evidence did not reflect reality. Despite his defense’s efforts for a retrial or a complete quashing of convictions, the court affirmed its judgment.

Mustafa, 51, was a key figure in the KLA during the Kosovo war of 1998-1999, which resulted in 13,000 deaths. The high-security court, known as the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, operates under Kosovo law but is based in the Netherlands to protect witnesses from intimidation. Mustafa’s case, considered a milestone for the court, also resulted in a 207,000 euros ($223,000) compensation order for his victims.

The court’s decision echoes ongoing efforts to address war crimes, with former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci currently facing trial. Despite Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, tensions persist with Belgrade, which does not recognize Kosovo and encourages defiance in northern Kosovo.

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