Macedonia Sends War Crimes Cases to History

The last of the four war crime cases concerning atrocities originally alleged to have been committed by former ethnic Albanian rebels during the 2001 armed conflict have been annulled by the Macedonian justice system.

Only one case reached Skopje’s Primary Court

On Tuesday, the Prosecutor’s Office in Macedonia stated that it had given up from further prosecution in the so-called “NLA leadership” case.

Following a political decision made by the Macedonian parliament, the prosecution previously did the same with the other three highly controversial cases that some believed could rekindle the flames of ethnic disputes of the past.

The “NLA leadership” case originally charged the former head of the ethnic Albanian rebellion in Macedonia, a number of whom are current politicians, with command responsibility for alleged atrocities of rebels.

Although the case never entered a court procedure in Macedonia, among those charged was the head of the largest Albanian party in Macedonia, Ali Ahmeti, who at the time of the conflict was the NLA leader.

Ahmeti’s Democratic Union for Integration is currently a junior partner in the government led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

In July,  the ruling coalition voted to abandon the four war-crimes cases related to the 2001 conflict that were returned to Macedonia from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in 2008. This move angered Macedonia’s opposition parties and human rights organizations.

After the returned, Macedonia’s domestic prosecutors decided to re-open the cases but many feared that reviving the cases could ignite ethnic disagreements from the past.

In 2001, Macedonia suffered a short lived conflict between the former ethnic Albanian insurgents from the now disbanded National Liberation Army, NLA, and the security forces controlled by the Macedonian majority.

The clashes ended after the signing of the Ohrid Peace Accord that same year. An Amnesty Law was then passed as part of a deal to help reintegrate former rebels in to the society.

Ever since then, there have been different views on whether the law should apply to these four cases. The Albanian parties unanimously insisted on their scrapping as well.

Apart from the NLA leadership case, another case accused former rebels of capturing and torturing several construction workers and another for cutting the water supply to the Macedonian town of Kumanovo for several months.

The so-called “Neprosteno” case accused former rebels of the alleged kidnapping and killing of 12 ethnic Macedonians and one ethnic Bulgarian. Only the last case ever reached a courtroom but was also annulled.

lobal human rights organization, Amnesty International, in September asked the Macedonian government to reverse the decision for abandoning the four cases.

“The parliament’s decision is clearly inconsistent with international law and will leave the victims and their relatives without access to justice,” Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s researcher on the Western Balkans, said at that time.

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