Michael Montgomery, May 07, 2010
Arrest in Kosovo points to secret camps
International police in Kosovo have arrested a former guerrilla commander suspected of war crimes in a widening investigation that was spurred by our exposé of secret detention camps run by the Kosovo Liberation Army during and after the 1999 war.
Local media reported European Union police detained Sabit Geci on Thursday following a raid on his home in Pristina.
Witnesses have linked Geci and other KLA commanders to the torture and murder of prisoners at an operations base in the Albanian border town of Kukes.
A series of joint reports last year by CIR, the BBC and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network detailed evidence of the abuses and killings following a multi-year investigation.
A wide range of sources—from survivors to former KLA soldiers—spoke of a network of secret camps scattered throughout Kosovo and Albania where civilians and POWs were held, tortured and sometimes killed.
In some cases the abuses allegedly occurred under the noses of UN officials and NATO troops, who arrived in Kosovo in June 1999.
We reviewed internal documents that showed United Nations officials knew about the allegations as early as 2002 but failed to launch a serious investigation. What’s more, officials at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague destroyed physical evidence that related to some of the allegations.
This is the first case of possible war crimes on Albanian soil and it could lift the lid on Albania’s covert support of the KLA and links to wartime abuses.
Sources close to the investigation say the government of Albania refused to cooperate with EU prosecutors despite an earlier pledge to help international investigators looking into the allegations.
There’s been no reaction from Kosovo’s current leadership, which is dominated by former KLA commanders. But here’s what Kosovo’s prime minister and former KLA political director Hashim Thaci told us last year when pressed about the Kukes allegations.
"It just didn't happen," Thaci said. "At any time, in any case, in any place, any space —this has nothing to do with the Kosovo Liberation Army."
I spoke about these developments today with Marco Werman on PRI's The World.