| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Serbia ignores US call to release arrested Kosovo policemen

On Friday, a Serbian court ruled for the ongoing detention and investigation of the three Kosovo police officers who had been arrested in Serbia earlier in the week.

This legal action followed a request from the US State Department and the demand of Gabriel Escobar, the US special envoy for southeastern Europe, who called for the release of the officers. Escobar expressed in an online press conference that the officers either unintentionally ended up in Serbia or were taken there against their will, emphasizing their unconditional release.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Serbian town of Kraljevo said it had charged the men with unauthorized production, possession, carrying and trafficking of weapons and explosive substances.

“The judge for the preliminary proceedings of the Higher Court in Kraljevo ordered the detention of all suspects,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The background of the initial arrest has been disputed by Serbia — which says the officers were deep inside Serbian territory — and Kosovo — which says the men were kidnapped.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti welcomed the call for the police officers’ release and repeated the Kosovar side of the story: “Serbia kidnapped them, on a road in Kosovo used by Serbian smugglers.”

Fears of return to open conflict
The arrest of the Kosovar police officers is only the most recent episode in an ongoing escalation of tension between the two neighbors.

Members of the Serbian minority in northern Kosovo have been protesting against the election of ethnic Albanian mayors in their towns after the majority of ethnic Serbs boycotted the vote.

The protests broke out into violence which saw the Kosovo Serbs face off against Kosovo police and NATO-led peacekeepers, several of whom were injured in the clashes.
Serbia then ordered its troops to be deployed to the border and to be on highest alert. The EU, UK, and US have all called on both sides to de-escalate.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence which it declared in 2008 following a war in the late 1990s that left over 10,000 people dead, most of whom were from Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanian community.

  • DW