Balkan Basketball War: flashpoint Kosova?

The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) strongly condemned weekend clashes between Albanians and Serbs in the divided town of Mitrovica, just days after the UN called for dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. Several people, including one EULEX police officer, were injured during the unrest. “These acts of senseless hooliganism have no place in any democratic society and need to be condemned by all,” EULEX head of mission Yves de Kermabon said Sept. 12. Returning from the UN Assembly in New York, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci insisted that the previous night’s incident in Mitrovica does not jeopardize the creation of a multi-ethnic society in Kosova. KFOR commander Erhard Buhler said during a visit to Mitrovica that NATO-led troops will not tolerate violence in northern Kosova and will guarantee a safe environment for all.

Politicians in Belgrade also condemned the incident, triggered by Albanians who were celebrating the defeat of Serbia’s national basketball team in a semi-final against Turkey at the 2010 World Basketball Championship in Istanbul. Minister for Kosova Goran Bogdanovic said the incident proved the need for dialogue between Serbs and Albanians. (SE Times, Sept. 13)

A Balkan Basketball War? A worthy successor to the 1968 Central American Football War.

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  1. Serbia sentences ex-paramilitary officer over Kosova killings
    The War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade on Sept. 22 sentenced former paramilitary officer Zeljko Djukic to 20 years in prison for his involvement in the deaths of 14 civilians in March 1999 during the Kosova war. Djukic, a member of the Serbian paramilitary group known as Scorpion, was originally convicted of the murders in June 2009. The conviction was overturned earlier this year by a Serbian appeals court. The appeals court demanded a retrial for Djukic because the original verdict was based exclusively on testimony of a protected witness, which is against the Serbian Criminal Procedure Code. The Higher Court again convicted Djukic on the charges brought by the War Crimes Prosecutor after it was made clear that Djukic was among the men who committed the murders. According to testimony at the trial, the Scorpions lined up 19 people, mostly women and children, and sprayed them with machine gun fire. In addition to Djukic, Dragan Medic, Dragan Borojevic and Miodrag Solaj have been convicted for their involvement. Djukic will be credited for his time served since 2007.

    The conviction of Djukic is another step in the ongoing effort to apprehend those responsible for the atrocities that occurred in the region over the last two decades. Last month, Croatian authorities extradited Sretko Kalinic to Serbia for his alleged connection with the 2003 assassination of former Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic. (Jurist, Sept. 23)

  2. EU Kosovo authorities charge 10 for war crimes
    The European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) on Sept. 2 charged 10 former members of the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) with war crimes for their actions during the 1998-1999 war in Kosova. Nine of the individuals were arrested in March. But among those charged is Fatmir Limaj, a prominent political figure in the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK). In order for the court to try him, parliament would have to dissolve his immunity. (Jurist, Sept. 2)

  3. Kosovo politican acquitted on war crimes charges
    Kosovo politician and parliamentarian Fatmir Limaj was acquitted May 2 on charges of war crimes allegedly committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war. Limaj allegedly ordered the torture and killings of Serbian detainees in 1999. He and three co-defendants were tried and acquitted before a panel of two EU judges and one Kosovo judge as part of the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). Six others were acquitted last month. Much of the prosecution’s case relied upon the testimony of a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who was found hanged in September in an apparent suicide. The prosecution plans to appeal. (Jurist, May 2)

  4. Serbia arrests Albanians for war crimes
    Eight ethnic Albanians were arrested on May 4, five on charges of war crimes committed during the conflicts in southern Serbia in 2001. Interior Minister Iva Dacic assured the public at a press conference that the arrests were not politically motivated even though some of those arrested are involved in politics. The five men charged with war crimes concerning armed attacks on civilians by the “Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medveda,” an off-shoot of the Kosovo Liberation Army, from 2000 to 2001. Albanians in southern Serbia held a peaceful protest against the arrests May 5 in Bujanovic, claiming the arrests were baseless and illegal. Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said an investigation is still being conducted, so he refused to give details of the charges against the arrested men. In addition to the five charged with war crimes, two others are held on obstruction charges and one on a charge of owning an illegal weapon. Last year, nine ethnic Albanians were convicted of war crimes committed in 1999 as officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army. (Jurist, May 5)