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Sunday, 3 September, 2000, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Kosovo fighters face war crimes probe
KLA soldiers
KLA soldiers had control in parts of Kosovo
By the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has confirmed that investigations have begun which could lead to war crimes indictments against members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

A spokesman for the tribunal's senior prosecutor told the BBC that investigation teams were looking into five incidents which took place in 1998, before Nato forces entered Kosovo.

The scale of the crimes committed by Serb forces against civilians in Kosovo has dominated public debate.

Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte
Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte said in June the KLA was being investigated
But even before Nato forces invaded, there were some areas where the KLA was strong enough to act with impunity, and where it too was accused of crimes against civilians.

The Chief Prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia, Carla del Ponte, said during a visit to Kosovo in June that the KLA was also being investigated; now her spokesman has given details of those investigations.

Five incidents

Paul Risely said teams of investigators were looking into five specific criminal incidents which took place in 1998, in areas where the KLA was dominant or on the attack, and which may have been serious enough to merit the tribunal's interest.

There was certainly a war going on in Kosovo at the time, and, says Mr Risley, the KLA was putting itself forward as an organised military body, responsible for the actions of its troops.

"If you remember in 1998, the KLA was in existence, and the KLA was strongly applying for some sort of Western recognition of its efforts," he said.

KLA soldiers process
The KLA sought recognition as an army
"If indeed that is the case, they would also be very cognisant of the laws of the Geneva Convention, the laws and rules of war, and thus any sort of criminal activity which occurs under their authority would come under our jurisdiction, and we would be interested," he added.

Mr Risley refused to say whether any members of the KLA leadership might face indictment, but he did say that the tribunal's policy was always to look for the most senior persons who could be held responsible of committing any particular crime.

One problem with bringing such cases could be the difficulty of interviewing witnesses.

Most of those making allegations of atrocities against the KLA now live in Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia does not recognise the tribunal - which has issued an indictment against President Milosevic, the head of state.

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See also:

03 Sep 00 | Europe
Mass jail-break in Kosovo
01 Sep 00 | Europe
Milosevic warned over Kosovo
05 Apr 00 | Europe
Kosovo gripped by racketeers
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