Contrary to his previous statement, Shukri Buja claims that the KLA did not “abduct” or “arrest” Kosovo Albanians He now claims that the KLA merely “stopped them at check points” and “prevented them from going into the enemy-controlled territory… which they misinterpreted as arrests.”

Shukri Buja, witness at the Slobodan Milosevic trialShukri Buja, witness at the Slobodan Milosevic trial

Witness Shukri Buja claims that just as the prosecutor now “misinterprets” what he said in 2003 in an interview with the OTP investigators, so did the Albanian villagers “misinterpret” the KLA actions in June and July 1998 as “abductions and arrests,”. Buja testified today that the villagers had been stopped at check-points and “prevented for their own good from going to the enemy-controlled territory”, i.e., territory controlled by the “Serbian occupiers”. They “misinterpreted that as being arrested”, he said at the trial of three former KLA members charged with the crimes against Serbs and Albanians in the Lapusnik camp.

The problem of Shukri Buja, former commander of a KLA sub-zones, lies in the fact that the prosecutor has a video tape of the interview he gave to an OTP investigator in April 2003. In that interview, Buja speaks about “abductions” and “arrests” of Albanians suspected of collaborating with the Serbian authorities and says that it became “the most serious in June and July 1998.” He also says that there were “cases of personal revenge” and that there was “enough space for such actions” at that time.” When he did not know what to do with the civilians stopped at the check points in his area of responsibility, Buja explained in the interview, he would “send them to Klecka, because the people there were in charge for this kind of thing.” When asked by the investigator whether Fatmir Limaj a/k/a Commander Çeliku was in the Klicka headquarters, Buja replied that he was and added that “there he received instructions from Commander Çeliku.”

This is how Shukri Buja spoke in April 2003. Less than two years later, testifying as an unwilling prosecution witness at the trial of Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu and Haradin Bala, Buja tries to convince the judges that the prosecution is “misinterpreting” his words. When he said, for instance, that he “received instructions”, this “meant cooperation with Çeliku, nor orders”. As Buja says, “instructions are one thing, and orders another”. It is likewise “wrong to interpret” stopping people at check-points “as arrests”, and their sending to Klecka as “detention” because those people were only “questioned and then released.” The people in Klecka, he testifies, “knew where to direct them and could tell them where to go.”

In April 2003 Buja discussed with the investigators a large-scale offensive of the Serbian forces in the Lapusnik area in late July 1998. According to the indictment, at that time some twenty prisoners from the Lapusnik camp were then taken by the KLA to the Berisha mountains, divided into two groups - one was released and one executed. Buja recounted in the interview that on 25 or 26 July he encountered a group of about a dozen men on a tractor in Krajmirovci, where his headquarters were located. The men told him they were coming from “the prison in Lapusnik.” Buja was surprised, did not know how to respond, and tried to get in touch with the headquarters in Klecka to get instructions about what to do with the men. He did not manage to get in touch with Klecka and decided to let the men go. Then he felt that he was treated with a certain suspicion in the Main Staff and he then thought he might have made a mistake. He spoke about it with Fatmir Limaj, and he said that “it was all right” to let the people go.

Confronted with the video tape of this part of his interview, Buja today claimed that he had not been in Krajmirovci on 25 and 26 July 1998, that he had been on the front, and that he could have encountered the people on the tractor on 23 or 24 July – the day when, according to the indictment, the Lapusnik camp had been evacuated.

At the end of Shukri Buja’s five-day testimony, prosecutor Alex Witing asked the presiding judge to warn the witness of his rights according o Rule 90(e): that he did not have to answer questions that might incriminate him. After the warning, the prosecutor spent some time questioning Buja in private session.