Specialist Prosecutor Kimberly West welcomed today’s judgment in the appeal of Salih Mustafa, which upheld of the first-instance verdict, but modified Mr Mustafa’s sentence, as representing a victory for justice.
“I welcome today’s judgment, which, despite minor revision of Mr Mustafa’s sentence, represents a victory for justice and, in particular, for the victims of Salih Mustafa and their families,” Ms West said in response to the verdict from the Specialist Chambers Appeals Panel.
In the 16 December 2022 first-instance verdict, Mr Mustafa was found guilty of three counts of war crimes – arbitrary detention; torture; and murder – and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
Mr Mustafa’s victims were all Kosovar Albanians, some of whom had volunteered for service with the KLA because they believed strongly in the fight for Kosovo’s independence.
Mr Mustafa was arrested on 24 September 2020 in Pristina by the SPO. His trial began on 15 September 2021; evidentiary proceedings were completed on 20 June 2022; and closing statements were made between 13 and 15 September 2022. The SPO presented 14 witnesses in total.
Mr Mustafa appealed the first-instance verdict and the appeal hearing took place on 26 and 27 October 2023.
During the appeal hearing, the SPO submitted that Mr Mustafa was rightfully convicted, not only for arbitrary detention and torture but also for murder, because he and his co-perpetrators tortured the murder victim to a near-death state, denied him medical assistance, and left him to die.
Today, the Appeals Panel affirmed all convictions, emphasised the grave nature of the crimes and modified Mr Mustafa’s sentence to 22 years in prison.
The Specialist Prosecutor also paid tribute to the courage of witnesses who testified in the Mustafa trial.
“The willingness of witnesses to testify has been critical in this case and I applaud their courage in giving evidence in court,” the Specialist Prosecutor said.