Kosovo witness death raises protection questions: UN rights

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The recent death of a key witness in a war crimes case against a senior Kosovo figure raises concerns about Kosovo's witness protection, the UN human rights office said Friday.

Agim Zogaj, known as witness X in the Klecka case, was found dead in Germany, the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) revealed Wednesday.

The UN rights office noted that German police have reportedly said that Zogaj hung himself in the park in Duisburg, Germany.

"While the exact reasons behind his apparent suicide are difficult to ascertain, this case adds to our longstanding concerns about witness protection in Kosovo," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"We call for an effective and independent witness and victim protection system inside Kosovo to be put in place".

"Only an effective and well-resourced witness and victim protection system in Kosovo will help render justice to the victims and end impunity regarding past violations," he added.

According to Kosovo media reports, Zogaj had agreed to testify in the case of Fatmir Limaj, one of the most prominent commanders of the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The separatist KLA fought the forces of the then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

Zogaj, as a former KLA member, was reportedly under Limaj's direct command in the Klecka improvised detention centre where war crimes against non-Albanians were allegedly committed.

In September, Limaj was charged with nine other suspects for war crimes committed against civilians and prisoners of war in June 1999.

Last week, he was placed under a month-long house arrest pending the start of his trial.

Limaj is now a lawmaker and deputy president of prime minister Hashim Thaci's ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK). He served as transport minister in Thaci's previous government.

Zogaj's identity was kept secret while he was alive as the main trial was expected to begin next month.

Local media have speculated that Zogaj was placed under a special witness programme and relocated out of Kosovo.

© 2011 AFP

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