Kosovo-Serbia Stalemate Lets Convicted Criminals Walk Free

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Kosovo has recently arrested two people wanted in Serbia to serve jail sentences, but Serbia has yet to ask for their extradition.

Kosovo police have released a Serb man convicted in Serbia of attempted murder after authorities in Belgrade, which do not recognise Kosovo as an independent state, failed to submit an extradition request, BIRN Kosovo’s flagship news agency Kallxo.com has found.

The case of Jovan Perisic, who had been living freely in the mainly Serb town of Gracanica south of the Kosovo capital Pristina despite being wanted in Serbia to serve a 14-year prison sentence, has highlighted the consequences of a lack of cooperation between Serbia and its former southern province.

The European Union brokered a deal on mutual legal assistance between Kosovo and Serbia in 2013, by which the EU acts as a conduit for judicial requests. But that has been little cooperation and no extraditions.

Police arrested Perisic in Gracanica in mid-September, acting on an international warrant issued by Serbia via Interpol in 2020. But they were forced to release him after Serbia failed to submit a request for Perisic’s extradition.

A similar case concerns Izet Tutic, a doctor sentenced on corruption charges to a year and eight months behind bars by a court in the Serbian town of Kraljevo. Tutic was living in Pristina and working at a private hospital when he was arrested this month, also on the basis of an Interpol warrant. He will be released if Serbia does not request his extradition.

Kosovo’s government says it has submitted many requests for legal assistance from Serbia via the EU mechanism, without ever receiving an answer. No such requests have been made by Serbia.

“Kosovo has expressed its willingness over the years to cooperate on the issue of extraditions but the Serbian side shown no will, even in the cases of persons who are wanted by their own authorities,” Kosovo’s justice ministry told Kallxo.com.

Refuge for fugitives

Asked for comment, Interpol directed Kallxo.com to the authorities of the countries concerned.

Kosovo is not yet a member state of Interpol, having failed to win enough votes to join in 2018.

Pristina prosecutor Armend Hamiti said that in such cases authorities have no choice but to order a person’s release in the absence of an extradition request.

“In the last two months, we have had two cases of arrests based on Interpol warrants, but if Serbia does not submit extradition requests, we have to release them,” Hamiti said.

A 2018 BIRN investigation found that Serbia and Kosovo have become refuges for each other’s fugitives, with suspected murderers, drug dealers and organ-traffickers able to evade justice simply by crossing the border between them.

Years of EU mediation have failed to resolve relations between the two, and experts say little prospect of any imminent improvement with regards judicial cooperation.

“I don’t think it’s too difficult to conclude what the reason is for the lack of cooperation,” said Kosovo-based lawyer Miodrag Brklac. “The political situation has contributed to this.”

Source : Balkaninsight