Source: Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade
Demand for the release of ethnic Albanians unlawfully detained on charges of political acts in connection with the Kosovo conflict
November 8, 1999
Information obtained by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points to
grave violations of due process by Serbian judicial bodies and
correctional institutions against ethnic Albanians who were arrested in
the 24 March-10 June period this year on charges of terrorism and other
criminal acts against the constitutional order of FR Yugoslavia prior to
24 March, or who have been convicted of criminal offenses in connection
with the Kosovo conflict.
According to the HLC's information, some 350 Kosovo Albanians are
currently being held without any legal grounds. The 30-day detention
period set by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs on the basis of
the FR Yugoslavia government's decree on the application of the Criminal
Procedure Code during the state of war expired five and more months
ago. The persons being held include minors of the age of thirteen,
among them Ekrem Nebihi.
HLC attorneys Ibish Hoti and Mustafa Radoniqi, defense counsel for
several Albanians detained at the Sremska Mitrovica penitentiary and
correctional institution, have not been permitted to see their clients.
No explanation has been given.
Trials are frequently scheduled without the indictments being first
delivered to the accused or their lawyers or, when delivered, they are
in the Serbian language. Furthermore, courts neglect to summon lawyers
from Kosovo retained by the accused or members of their families.
Defendants are assigned court-appointed attorneys, some of whom fail to
appear in the courtroom on the trial date. The HLC has noted also that
various intermediaries often recommend that accused Albanians retain
lawyers from Serbia, for whom defending Albanians charged with political
offenses has become a lucrative business. In addition, trials are held
without professional interpreters so that the majority of defendants are
unable to follow the proceedings.
Serbian judicial bodies thus systemically violate the rights of detained
persons guaranteed by Article 24 of the FR Yugoslavia Constitution,
Article 16 of the Serbian Constitution, articles 190 through 200 of the
Yugoslav Criminal Procedure Code, and generally recognized international
Since the detainees in Serbia are Kosovo Albanian civilians who were
arrested after 24 March while on their way to neighboring Albania after
being driven from their homes by the security forces, and persons
accused of being members of or aiding the Kosovo Liberation Army, the
HLC strongly urges the highest Serbian government and judicial officials
to initiate the procedure for the release of those who are being
unlawfully detained and accused of political acts in connection with the
The Humanitarian Law Center reiterates its appeal to the relevant
Serbian authorities to release immediately 25 Kosovo Albanian minors,
around 200 wounded and sick, and Igbale Gjafaj and her four-month baby,
considering their detention primarily as a humanitarian problem which
must be dealt with on a priority basis.