Eight ethnic Albanians were arrested [press release] on Friday, 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 [B92 report], that the arrests were not politically motivated even though some of those arrested are involved in politics. The five men charged with war crimes were allegedly involved in armed attacks on civilians by the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medveda, an off-shoot of the Kosovo Liberation Army [JURIST news archives], from 2000 to 2001. Albanians in southern Serbia held a peaceful protest [B92 report] against the arrests Saturday 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 [JURIST report] committed in 1999 as officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army after the Bosnian civil war. In 2008, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, now Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, was convicted in absentia of terrorism charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison for crimes committed during the war. That same year, the Kosovo parliament officially adopted its declaration of independence [JURIST report] from Serbia, which the Serbian government denounced as illegal and condemned [press release].