Kosovo Checks True Number of KLA Veterans

The government has launched a bid to verify exactly who was in the Kosovo Liberation Army – amid disagreements over the numbers involved in the independence fight.Agim Ceku, Security Forces Minister, who is leading the governmental commission on the status verification of KLA veterans, members and internees, said: “Applications for this process will be available throughout Kosovo”.

Ceku has guaranteed a transparent process while urging all former KLA members to fill in the forms.

“No veteran will remain out (of this process) if he applies…the veterans will not need to run after their commanders,” he said.

“It is enough to mention the units and names of their commanders from squad level up to operative zone level,” Ceku added.

Ceku, a former KLA chief of staff and Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s Prime Minister and formerly a KLA leader, were the first to submit their applications.

The KLA was a guerrilla force established in the late 1990s fighting for independence from Serbia.

But precise data on the KLA’s structural composition remains unknown.

After the war, the authorities in Kosovo claimed that some 20,000 members took part in the fight against Serbia’s security forces.

But the KLA’s own War Veterans Organization insists that up to 40,000 members were involved in the insurgency.

Members of the Organization of War Veterans of the KLA told BIRN that applications will be sent to all 26 of the organization’s offices in different municipalities in Kosovo.

The deputy head of the organization, Smajl Elezaj, said applications will be provided to all those interested from Thursday until February 28 next year.

“In this way all dilemmas and uncertainties will vanish, because it will be clear who is and who is not a veteran,” he said.

“Once this is done, the governmental commission will check the lists, will approve them and then we’ll see how the law for this category will be approved,” he said.

A law regulating the status and rights of former KLA members already exists.

The Kosovo Assembly approved it last year, but veterans opposed it, saying it “hadn’t met the necessary criteria and denied a part of the history of the KLA’s war”.

Former KLA members held several protests until now, mainly in Pristina, expressing dissatisfaction with the law.

Once the process of status verification of veterans is done, a new law “with a concrete categorization of veterans” is expected to be drafted.

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