HLC Kosovo: EULEX’s Hasty Decision to Acquit Florim Ejupi

On 13 March 2009 the internationalized trial chamber of the Kosovo Supreme Court acquitted a Kosovo Albanian Florim Ejupi of all charges in relation to the terrorist attack on the Niš-Ekspress bus, which occurred on 16 February 2001 in the vicinity of Podujevo in which 11 Serbs were killed and ten were wounded “due to lack of evidence.”

HLC-Kosovo believes that the Kosovo Supreme Court judgment is incomprehensible from a legal standpoint and unacceptable for victims’ families and survivors, who have waited for years to see justice done. It was more suitable, considering the gravity of the crime, for the Supreme Court to reverse the judgement and reopen the main hearing to directly adduce evidence, including the examination of witnesses, and thus prevent criticism and dissatisfaction of the victims’ families caused by the acquittal of a person who was previously sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment.

HLC-Kosovo would like to draw attention to fact that on 6 June 2008, the internationalized trial chamber of the Priština District Court presided by Judge Hajnalka Karpati sentenced Florim Ejupi to the maximum prison sentence of 40 years due to his responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Niš-Ekspress bus. During the probative procedure, the court established, on the basis of DNA analysis, that the cigarette butt found on the scene of the crime was Ejupi’s. During the main hearing, protected witness Alfa testified about Florim Ejupi’s responsibility. He stated that Florim Ejupi told him personally that it was he who had activated the explosive from a distance when the bus was passing by, by connecting wires linked to the explosives planted beneath the road.

The attack on the Niš-Ekspress bus represents one of the most serious crimes against Kosovo Serbs committed after the deployment of international troops in Kosovo. That is why the first instance verdict of Florim Ejupi represented an encouraging example underscoring the fact that Kosovo institutions were ready to prosecute crimes committed against Serbs.

The diametrically different judgements of the first instance and the second instance courts, in which international judges played the leading role, prompt the question of how capable and ready the EULEX mission is to assist the Kosovo judicial system in establishing the rule of law and ending the culture of impunity.