Kosovo PM accuses Serbia of trying to ‘provoke a serious international conflict’.
A Pristina court jailed a former Serbian police officer for 20 years for his part in the murder of 13 ethnic Albanian civilians during the 1990s Kosovo war.
A court statement on Tuesday said he had been part of a “large-scale and systematic attack” carried out in 1999 by Serbian police and paramilitary forces against the ethnic Albanian civilians in Sllovi and the neighbouring village of Terbovc, located 25km (15 miles) south of Pristina, Kosovo’s capital.
The court referred to him only by the initials GS, but the Kosovar media identified him as Goran Stanisic.
Surviving witnesses, mostly women, testified they had repeatedly seen him among the armed groups that put men in front of a wall and shot them in front of their wives, mothers and daughters.
“With these crimes, he has committed war crimes against the population in cooperation with others,” the verdict said.
The former member of the Serbian reserve police force was convicted not just of murders, but also for having participated in the expulsion of local civilians, the court added.
Kosovar human rights groups say the attack by Serbian forces on Sllovi and Terbovc killed 45 people and wounded 11 more, while nearly 100 Albanian homes were burned. Hundreds were forced to flee.
Verdicts against members of armed forces of both Kosovo and Serbia are rare – as the lack of diplomatic relations makes the extradition of suspects from one territory to another impossible.
According to the indictment, Stanisic hails from the same village of Sllovi where the killings took place. He fled to Serbia after the war, but was arrested in 2019 when he tried to cross the border.
Stanisic, who had denied the charges, can still appeal.
The 1998-1999 war between independence-seeking Kosovo Albanian rebels and Serbian armed forces killed some 13,000, most of them ethnic Albanians.
It ended after a three-month-long NATO bombing campaign forced Belgrade to withdraw its forces and leave the governance of the region to the UN.
In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. It was recognised by some 100 countries as a sovereign state – but not by Serbia and its allies, Russia and China.