Swiss may extradite Kosovan war crimes suspects: report

Swiss authorities have arrested two Kosovans wanted by Serbia for suspected war crimes, but the question of where to extradite them to is stirring up diplomatic tensions, Swiss media report.

Swiss may extradite Kosovan war crimes suspects: report
Swiss president and justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga is studying the case. Photo: AFP

The men, whose names were not given, were both arrested last week and are suspected by Belgrade of committing war crimes as members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998–99 war, the ATS news agency reported, citing information from the justice ministry.    

The first man, who was arrested in Zurich last Tuesday after Serbian authorities requested his extradition, is reportedly suspected of participating in armed attacks in 1998 against two villages situated in what today is Kosovo.

Serbia accuses him of a range of crimes, including murder, rape and conducting illegal arrests, ATS reported.

The second man was arrested during a routine check in Geneva last Thursday, according to the justice ministry.

Serbia reportedly wants him handed over on suspicion he killed a civilian in 1999.

Both men have refused their extraditions, in a move that will draw out the process and could see the issue go to court.

Complicating matters further, Kosovo insists that it, not Serbia, should handle cases of suspected war crimes committed by Kosovan citizens.

On Friday, Kosovo Justice Minister Hajredin Kuci sent a letter to his Swiss counterpart Simonetta Sommaruga to object to any plans to extradite the men to Serbia, the Sonntagszeitung weekly reported Sunday.

The Swiss justice ministry confirmed to news agency AFP that Sommaruga had received a letter from Kuci, and had responded, addressing his concerns.

In 2012, Switzerland was faced with a similar case.

That time, Bern decided to extradite an ethnic Albanian war crimes suspect to Serbia, since Serbian judicial authorities maintained he was a Serbian citizen.

The suspect, who insisted he was Kosovan, was in the end reportedly released due to lack of evidence.

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Why has Serbia pledged €1 million for Notre-Dame restoration?

Serbia on Monday said it will donate one million euros to help restore Notre-Dame Cathedral, after pro-government tabloids said the fire was "God's punishment" to France.

Why has Serbia pledged €1 million for Notre-Dame restoration?
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: AFP

The donation, equivalent to $1.1 million, “confirms our century-old friendship with the French people”, the Serbian government said in a statement.

Belgrade hopes “this symbol of French civilisation and the world will be rebuilt as quickly as possible.”

The gift comes after two tabloids, Alo and Informer, said the blaze was divine retribution after Kosovo's flag was displayed inside the cathedral during World War I centennial commemorations in Paris last year.

Serbia does not recognise the independence of Kosovo, a former southern province that broke away in a 1998-99 war.

The tabloid articles, entitled “God's punishment caught them”, were later removed, while Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic assured that “all citizens of Serbia are sad” about the fire.

The display of Kosovo's flag inside the church, alongside those of other foreign guests at the ceremony last November, was tweeted by Serbia's ambassador to Paris but never confirmed by the cathedral or French authorities.

It was met with outrage in Belgrade, which was already angry after Kosovo's president was given a more prominent position than Serbia's at one of the centenary's events.

Hundreds of millions of euros have poured in from around the globe to help rebuild the cathedral since it went up in flames last Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron has set a five-year deadline to rebuild the cathedral, which took around 200 years to erect.