Kosovo PM Criticised for Appointing War Criminal as Adviser

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was criticised by rights campaigners for appointing recently-released war crimes convict Sylejman Selimi, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, as his political adviser.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights group in Kosovo and Serbia said on Tuesday that Kosovo premier Ramush Haradinaj was wrong to appoint Sylejman Selimi as his adviser because of his war crimes conviction.

“People who committed war crimes do not belong in Kosovo state institutions. The decision to appoint Selimi as a political adviser points out the lack of seriousness and the government’s lack of commitment to justice, reconciliation and peace,” the YIHR said in a statement.

Selimi was released on parole in January 25 after serving more than five years of his seven-year prison sentence for crimes against Serb civilians during the 1998-99 war.

“He [Selimi] was appointed as a political advisor to the PM last week,” Avni Arifi, the head of Haradinaj’s office, told BIRN on Tuesday.

The YIHR also said that other Kosovo officials, such as President Hashim Thaci, have described Selimi as an Albanian hero, calling such statements “troublesome and unacceptable”.

Selimi was found guilty of torturing a civilian prisoner at an improvised KLA detention centre in the village of Likovc/Likovac in the Skenderaj/Srbica municipality in 1998 and early 1999.

He was jailed for eight years by judges at Mitrovica Basic Court in May 2015, but the Appeals Court in Pristina cut his sentence to seven years in October 2016.

After his release, Selimi will be monitored by the Kosovo Probation Service until October 2020.

He is also due to give an interview to the Hague-based Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, which is probing wartime and post-war crimes.

“I believe that I will be interviewed next week. I don’t know in what capacity I have been summoned,” Selimi told the T7 television channel on Monday.

Selimi was a member of the KLA’s wartime ‘Drenica Group’, which was the source of many of Kosovo’s political leaders after the war, including current President Hashim Thaci.

After the war, he was appointed commander of the Kosovo Guard, then commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps.

He then became the commander of the Kosovo Security Force until 2011, when he was appointed ambassador to Tirana.

Three other former members of the KLA’s ‘Drenica Group’, Jahir Demaku, Zeqir Demaku and Isni Thaci, were also convicted alongside Selimi of the torture of civilians at the detention centre in Likovc/Likovac.

In June 2018, the Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled that the Supreme Court must review the case against the convicted ‘Drenica Group’ members.