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Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor Charges Thaci with War Crimes

A ten-count indictment has been filed against Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci charging him with crimes allegedly committed in the independence war of the late-1990s, including murder and torture.

The Hague-based Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, SPO, according to a press statement on Wednesday, has filed a ten-count indictment with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, KSC, charging Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo politician Kadri Veseli, and others with a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.

“The indictment alleges that Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli, and the other charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders. The crimes alleged in the indictment involve hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents,” the press release said.

A Specialist Chambers Pre-Trial Judge is currently reviewing the indictment to decide on whether to confirm the charges.

According to the press release, the Specialist Prosecutor deemed it necessary to issue this public notice because of repeated efforts by Thaci and Veseli to obstruct and undermine the work of the KSC.

“Mr Thaci and Mr Veseli are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice.

“By taking these actions, Mr Thaci and Mr Veseli have put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo,” the statement reads.

Over the past year, more than 100 people, mostly former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, have been summoned for questioning by the Specialist Prosecution as suspects or witnesses in relation to crimes allegedly committed during Kosovo’s war of independence from Serbia between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 1999 in Kosovo.

Those questioned included former KLA guerrilla fighters who have become high-profile politicians, such as Ramush Haradinaj, who resigned as prime minister of Kosovo after being summoned.

The Specialist Chambers will hear cases arising from an EU task force report which said that unnamed KLA officials could face indictments for a “campaign of persecution” against Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians during the war. The alleged crimes include killings, abductions, illegal detentions and sexual violence.

The report was commissioned after the Council of Europe published an inquiry in 2011, which alleged that some senior Kosovo officials, including Thaci, were responsible for various human rights abuses. Thaci has strongly denied the allegations.

The negotiations to establish the court lasted from 2011 until 2015. International judges and prosecutors staff the new court, although it operates under Kosovo’s laws.

Since the Kosovo war ended, the international community has been overseeing the justice system in Kosovo whose results in prosecuting war crimes have been poor – fewer than 20 final verdicts in war crimes cases.

It was believed that the Kosovo prosecution couldn’t handle the political pressure in sensitive cases concerning senior officials, which was one reason why the international community decided to establish the new court.

Copyright BIRN 2015

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