Serbia-kosovo stalemate allows fugitives to stay free balkan insight data recovery minneapolis

Serbia and Kosovo have become refuges for each other’s criminals and fugitives, allowing suspected murderers, drug dealers and organ-traffickers to evade justice by crossing the border. Faith Bailey, Kreshnik Gashi, Jelena Cosic, Serbeze Haxhiaj BIRN

The two men were ordered to present themselves at a prison to serve lengthy jail terms for harvesting the organs of dozens of vulnerable victims for transplants at the now notorious Pristina clinic – but the urologist and his son had disappeared.

Nothing is known about how the Dervishis fled Kosovo, but police in Pristina have now revealed that they believe the two men crossed the border into Serbia, where they remained in hiding despite the existence of an international ‘red notice’, issued through the Interpol office of the UN Mission in Kosovo.

In November 2014, her clinic was raided by Kosovo Police, who suspected Zeqiri of a string of offences, including allowing parents to choose the sex of their child for a fee, buying sperm and eggs from vulnerable people, and employing unlicensed embryologists, according to an indictment issued by prosecutors in January 2016 and obtained by BIRN.

In February 2014, Zeqiri had registered a Serbian company called Global IVF in Bujanovac, a municipality near the Kosovo border whose population is majority ethnic Albanian, and a month later she began renting an office in the town. Zeqiri is originally from the area.

After she refused to amend her contract, he put new locks on the door. Zeqiri then unsuccessfully sued Behluli to recover the money she had invested. According to court documents obtained by BIRN, Zeqiri was carrying out IVF treatment and abortions at the centre with a licence from Serbia’s Ministry of Health, although she denies this.

Despite these setbacks, in December, after her escape from Kosovo, the website was registered, through which she continues to offer her infertility services in Albanian and Serbian language through “regional and international clinics”, as well as online consultations.

According to Serbian media, Vukadinovic was found guilty of being part of an organised crime group involved in smuggling textiles and other goods into Serbia from Turkey and other countries. He was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to two years and three months in prison in 2012, according to reports.

Kosovo Police claimed that Pristina had informed Serbian police of his arrest, and that Belgrade law enforcers then requested that Vukadinovic be taken informally to the nearest border point. As Vukadinovic also held Kosovo citizenship, Kosovo Police were unable to deport him.

“Based on the responses for all the above-mentioned cases, the response was the same: that Serbia will not require its citizens’ extradition from Kosovo. It is believed that this has to do with the non-recognition of Kosovo by Serbia,” said police spokesman Daut Hoxha.

The investigation into the assassination of Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, gunned down outside his party’s office in the divided town of Mitrovica in January, is now providing a fresh test of the limited cooperation between the two countries.

“Law enforcement cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo is orchestrated through a jumble of international organisations and half-implemented agreements – all impeded by political antagonism and mistrust,” Bojan Elek, author of a 2015 report on Kosovo-Serbia cooperation published by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, told BIRN.

EU-brokered talks between the countries, which began in 2011, have produced some tangible results around issues such as freedom of movement, but even these are often poorly implemented, according to in-depth reports by BIRN Kosovo [ here and here].

For example, a deal meant to prevent Serbia from blocking Kosovo’s membership of regional organisations has not stopped Belgrade from countering Pristina’s attempt to join Europol, Interpol and a host of other regional law-enforcement organisations.

Kosovo still relies on the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, deployed in the wake of the conflict in 1999, to issue international arrest warrants, known as red notices, while the EU rule-of-law mission liaises with Europol. Both UNMIK and EULEX are also mandated to facilitate communication between Kosovo and Serbia’s police forces.

After its deployment in 2008, EULEX was charged with handling written communication between Pristina and Belgrade, known as Mutual Legal Assistance, and was also required to step in to mediate cases of extradition to and from states which do not recognise Kosovo’s independence.

But BIRN has also discovered that during this hiatus, with official requests from the EU office in Pristina piling up at the Serbian Justice Ministry, duplicates of at least ten Mutual Legal Assistance cases were resent to the ministry in Belgrade from EULEX, even though its mandate had technically expired.

“In order for some very important cases on war crimes and organised crime, which were dealt with by international prosecutors and judges, to be worked on, we tacitly agreed that EULEX Belgrade will send a copy of the subject [request], while the original was somewhere already there in the [Serbian] ministry,” explained a high-ranking EU official involved in this process.

The same EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that overall all sides had been dissatisfied with legal cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia, adding that while the administrative process had been smooth, transfer of information had been “really slow”.

While EULEX was successful in securing extraditions from some countries that do not recognise Kosovo, such as Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there have been no extraditions between Kosovo and Serbia, as Pristina and Belgrade have not yet concluded an agreement on this.

The head of Kosovo’s Special Prosecution Reshat Millaku, who is in charge of the most serious cases, including war crimes and high-level corruption, said that cooperation between prosecutor’s offices in Kosovo and Serbia is almost impossible.

But the Justice Ministry in Belgrade rejected the accusation that there was no cooperation. In a letter to BIRN, the ministry press office said: “From the last year alone, the data shows that there have been 316 requests for legal assistance in both directions.