A Kosovo court has jailed a former Serb army police reserve officer for 12 years for crimes during the country”s 1998-1999 war.
Zoran Djokic was found to have been responsible for the deaths of 33 Albanians “together with an organised criminal group of Serbs wearing military, paramilitary and police uniforms”.
The killings took place between March and April 1999 in Peja, a city 85 kilometres west of the capital, Pristina.
The Pristina court ruled that the group had entered Albanians’ homes and forced them to flee, killing 33 and maltreating others physically and psychologically.
Judge Arben Hoti rejected the alibi presented by the defendant, who denied the charges.
Djokic, an ethnic Serbian, was arrested in February 2019 and had previously been living in Belgrade, according to prosecutors.
Kosovo was a Serb province until the 1998-1999 insurrection by ethnic Albanian rebels sparked a bloody Serbian crackdown.
The conflict left more than 10,000 people dead, and 1,641 missing and ended after NATO carried out a 78-day bombing campaign.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia, as well as Russia and China, have not recognised it.
Serbia’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija said Thursday’s verdict was “the most flagrant example of how law and justice are trampled in so-called Kosovo”.
The ministry added that the trial was unfounded on the evidence and testimonies of witnesses because “not a single eyewitness recognized Djokic as the perpetrator”.
They added in a statement that the sentence demonstrated “the bias and passion of the courts”.
“This shameful verdict cannot be interpreted otherwise than as a trial of someone’s ethnicity, in front of law and justice”.