Albanian diaspora protest in front of the Hague court. Photo: BIRN.

Albanians Rally for ‘Liberators’ Outside Hague War Crimes Court

Protesters gathered in front of the Kosovo war crimes court in The Hague to express their anger about the trial of four former guerrilla leaders who they described as “liberators”, demanding their acquittal.

Hundreds of protesters from Kosovo and its ethnic Albanian diaspora gathered on Monday morning in front of the Hague-based Kosovo war crimes court to protest as four former leaders of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army – Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi – went on trial.

The four KLA leaders are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between at least March 1998 and September 1999 in Kosovo and neighbouring Albania during and just after the war with Serbian forces.

“We refuse to have our history distorted,” one protester said when he took loud speaker in his hand to address the protest.

Tahir Çitaku made a trip of more than 700 kilometres from the Swiss city of Basel to The Hague to protest against the trial.

“We have come to protect out liberators, our people who have protected [us] and have been unjustly taken [into custody],” Çitaku told BIRN. “We hope that justice will prevail,” he added.

Thaçi, Veseli, Selimi and Krasniqi were senior figures in the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA guerrilla organisation during the war and were involved in leading the fight against the Yugoslav Army, Serbian police and paramilitaries, and all became senior politicians in the post-war period.

Albanian diaspora protest in front of the Hague court. Photo: BIRN.

They have a lot of support among Kosovo Albanians in their home country, where thousands joined a demonstration against the trial in Prishtina on Sunday.

Nevaip Zyberi, who comes from an Albanian-speaking area of North Macedonia, also travelled to The Hague from Basel in Switzerland.

“We have come to tell Hague court that they are holding our liberators who are not guilty. We hope that the truth will finally come out and our liberators be released,” Zyberi told BIRN.

Bajram Lushaku, who came from Frankfurt in Germany, said he does not expect “anything good” from the court.

“Instead of bringing criminals here from Belgrade who committed terrible massacres in Kosovo, they have brought our liberators who fought in their [own] country,” Lushaku told BIRN.

Albanian diaspora protest in front of the Hague court. Photo: BIRN.

“For me, this court is purely political, it’s against the KLA and against the people of Kosovo,” he added.

Ramadan Nikaj travelled from the German city of Bergisch Gladbach to protest against the start of the trial.

“We have seen the protest yesterday in Prishtina and by the diaspora today here. It is similar to when we were under [Serbian] occupation, people are afraid that an injustice is being done but I don’t believe this court will do an injustice because they are internationals,” Nikaj said.

Klement Ismajlaj from the Albanian city of Korçë told BIRN that he expects the KLA leaders to be acquitted.

“If they keep them in detention, they are holding all the Albanian people,” Ismajlaj said.

03/04/2023 - 14:45

03 April 2023 - 14:45

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.