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Kosovo declares trust in Hague court after war crimes verdicts

RIA Novosti

27/02/2009 11:08 MOSCOW, February 27 (RIA Novosti) - Kosovo's president declared his "full trust" in the UN court in The Hague following the acquittal of one and conviction of five former top Serb politicians and army or police officers for war crimes in Kosovo.

In its first ruling establishing that war crimes were committed in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia acquitted former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic.

"We at all times have full trust in the verdict of the International Court, but at the same time, I must emphasize that each and every court case needs to be analyzed in the best way possible" Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said via an interpreter in Washington late Thursday after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Enormous crimes, crimes against humanity took place in Kosovo, in Bosnia, and Croatia," he said. "These crimes were committed by people who were leading the politics at that time."

The government in Belgrade declared its support for the Hague process, but said the guilty verdicts were overly harsh, particularly when compared with the acquittal of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, and would be appealed with Serbia's backing.

"Despite this disagreement, we fundamentally support the existence of the Hague tribunal and we believe that each criminal needs to be identified by name and surname," Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said.

Former Serbian deputy prime minister Nikola Sainovic, 60, police General Sreten Lukic, 53, and army General Nebojsa Pavkovic all received 22 years behind bars after being found guilty of murder, persecution, deportation and forced transfer.

Army Chief of Staff Dragoljub Ojdanic, 67, and another general, Vladimir Lazarevic, 59, were cleared of murder and persecution but found guilty of forcible transfer and deportation. They were both sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, the head of the Socialist party of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, said the convictions would increase public dissatisfaction with the UN court following the May 2008 acquittal of Haradinaj.

"Our public will inevitably draw analogies between this verdict and dismissal of charges against Ramush Haradinaj," he said. "It will further strengthen the impression of double standards at the Hague tribunal."

Milutinovic and the five convicted individuals were all close supporters of Milosevic, who died of a heart attack in The Hague in March 2006 before the case against him could be completed.

A total of nine Serbs were accused by the Tribunal's prosecutors for crimes in Kosovo in the late 1990s. Former Serbian interior minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic shot himself on the steps of the parliament building in Belgrade in April 2002. The final case, which started in January, is against a former advisor to the interior minister, Vlastimir Djordjevic.



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