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Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor v. Anton Lekaj (aka "Pinđo" aka "Balt")

Court District Court in Belgrade, War Crimes Chamber, Serbia-Montenegro
Decision title Indictment
Decision date 7 July 2005
  • Anton Lekaj (aka “Pinđo” aka “Balt”)
  • Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor
Categories Torture, War crimes
Keywords Torture; Former Yugoslavia; Kosovo; KLA; murder; rape; inhumane treatment; sexual violence; war crimes against civilians; Ðakovica municipality
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Anton Lekaj, born in 1980, was a member of the ‘Cipat’ group within the military police forces of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). In 1999, there was an ongoing conflict between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo.

Between 12 and 15 of June 1999, Lekaj, together with other members of the KLA, detained 13 non-Albanian civilians and transferred them to premises in the Pastrik Hotel. The 13 civilians were beaten, tortured, sexually abused, and some of them were even killed.

Lekaj was arrested in August 2004 and charged with war crimes against civilians. He was subsequently tried in Serbia. On 18 September 2006, he was found guilty for his participation in the crimes and was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.

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Procedural history

In August 2004, Anton Lekaj was arrested in Montenegro during investigations into a case of car theft.

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Related developments

On 7 July 2005, Lekaj was transferred to Serbia following the indictment by Serbia’s Special War Crimes Chamber.

On 12 October 2005, the trail began. Lekaj denied the charges, requested to be tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and refused to recognise the Serbian court and the prosecutor. As a result, the trial was adjourned. Cooperation was refused by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on the basis of lack of territorial jurisdiction of the Serbian courts.

On 18 September 2006, the Special War Crimes Chamber of Serbia found Lekaj guilty of torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, rape, and murder. Lekaj was acquitted for the charges of murder of three persons, and the torture of one other person. The Special War Crimes Chamber entered a sentence of 13 years of imprisonment.

On 6 April 2007, the High Court of Serbia also found Lekaj guilty and upheld the 13 years sentence.

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Legally relevant facts

Lekaj was a member of the ‘Cipat’ group within military police forces of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The alleged crimes were committed in 1999 in the Đakovica municipality in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija. During that period, there was an armed conflict between the KLA on the one side, and the Yugoslav Army and Serbian Police on the other.

In the indictment, the War Crimes Prosecutor alleged that Lekaj as a member of the ‘Cipat’ group aided and abetted KLA members in the realisation of their joint plan to achieve full KLA control over the territory of Kosovo and Metohija and to expel all non-Albanians from the region (pp. 1-2).

The alleged crimes were committed in the period between 12 and 15 June 1999. In particular, according to the indictment, on 12 June, at a Roma wedding ceremony in Đakovica, Lekaj and other members of the KLA unlawfully captured 13 persons. The persons were detained and tortured for three to four hours in a factory reception room. Subsequently, they were transferred to premises in the Pastrik Hotel. During the four days spent in those premises, the detainees were allegedly tortured, beaten with wooden sticks, mutilated, subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and sexual abuse, including rape. One of the victims was stabbed to death (p. 2).

On 14 June 1999, orders were issued for the release of six of the detainees. On 15 June 1999, the remaining detainees were transferred to a different place where three of them were allegedly killed (p. 3).

In the indictment, the crimes were charged as unlawful convictions of non-Albanians, denial of their right to regular and impartial trials, and subjecting them to killings, tortures, inhumane treatment, physical injuries and sexual assaults (p. 2). Lekaj was allegedly responsible as a co-perpetrator in the commission of war crimes against civilians (p. 3).

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Core legal questions

Can Anton Lekaj be charged with war crimes against non-Albanian civilians?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

Geneva Convention (IV), 1949:

  • Article 2(2) - Application of the Convention

  • Article 3(1)(1) and (2)(a), (c) and (d) - Conflicts not of an international character

  • Article 27(1) and (2) - Treatment I. General observations  

Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions, 1977:

  • Article 51 - Protection of the civilian population

  • Article 75 - Fundamental guarantees

  • Article 76 - Protection of women

 Additional Protocol (II) to the Geneva Conventions, 1977:

  • Article 4(1) and (2)(a) and (e) - Fundamental guarantees

  • Article 13 - Protection of the civilian population

Criminal Procedure Act of Serbia:

  • Article 46(2)

  • Article 265(1)

  • Article 266

Basic Penal Code of the Republic of Serbia:

  • Article 142(1)

  • Article 22
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Further analysis

J. Nicić and I. Bandović, ‘Status ofTransitionalJustice in the Region’, Regional Human Rights Report, 2006, issue 1, pp. 241- 253.

C. Cahn, ‘Birth of a Nation: Kosovo and the Persecution of Pariah Minorities’, German Law Journal, 2007, Vol. 8, pp. 81- 94.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

‘Anton Lekaj’, TRIAL.

‘Serbia National Judicial decisions’, Geneva academy of international humanitarian law and human rights.

‘Anton Lekaj trial continues’, b92, 13 September 2006.

‘anton lekaj osuđen na 13 godina zatvora zbog ratnog zločina’, Krstarica Vesti, 18 September 2006.

‘Lekaj osuđen na 13 godina zatvora’, Radio Slobodna Evropa, 18 September 2006.

‘Bivši pripadnik OVK osuđen u Beogradu na 13 godina zatvora zbog ratnog zločina’, Jutarnjilist, 18 September 2006.

Z. Stanojević, ‘13 godina za Antona Lekaja’, BBC Serbian, 18 September 2006.

‘Danas presuda "gnjilanskoj grupi"’, Press Online, 21 January 2011.

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Social media links

J. Sterling, ‘Serb war crimes trial of Kosovo Albanian adjourned after opening’, Jurist, 12 October 2005.

J. Jansen, ‘Serbia court sentences first Kosovo Albanian for war crimes’, Jurist, 18 September 2006.

R. Bandanza, ‘Shiptar living in Kosovo gets 13 years for war crimes’, VNN Forum, 18 September 2006.

L. Brunner, ‘Serbia high court upholds sentence of ethnic Albanian convicted of Kosovo war crimes’, Jurist, 6 April 2007.