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EU judge places senior Kosovo politician under house arrest on suspicion of war crimes

An EU judge on Thursday placed senior Kosovo politician and parliamentarian Fatmir Limaj under house arrest for one month while awaiting trial on charges of war crimes stemming from the 1998-99 Kosovo war with Serbia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], acting on a request by prosecutors for the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website]. Limaj allegedly ordered two captured Serb policemen executed and tortured another [AP report] Serbian captive in 1999. Limaj is also under investigation for embezzling funds while serving as transport minister. An influential figure in the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) [official website, in Albanian], Limaj was excluded from a cabinet position [VOA report] following international pressure not to include corrupt officials, but was elected into the Kosovo parliament. Limaj is an ex-member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and is viewed as a liberator [Reuters report] by ethnic Albanians. In 2005, Limaj was acquitted of similar charges by a war crimes tribunal in The Hague because of insufficient evidence. The start date of the current trial remains unclear.

EULEX has been investigating war crimes [JURIST report] since December 2008. Earlier this month, EULEX charged 10 former members of the KLA [JURIST report], including Fatmir Limaj, with war crimes for their actions during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo. In May 2010, EU police arrested a former member of the KLA for suspected war crimes violations [JURIST report]. A case came to trial [JURIST report] in March 2009, resulting in a guilty verdict against a Kosovo Albanian for charges of murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. The trial of two Serbian defendants was derailed [JURIST report] that month by hundreds of Serbian protesters and postponed indefinitely. Earlier this year, the Council of Europe and the UN Security Council [JURIST reports] considered allegations of organ trafficking by the KLA during the war. Kosovo controversially seceded from Serbia [JURIST report] in February 2008 and its new constitution went into effect [JURIST report] later that year.

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