Courtroom of the Kosovo Tribunal in the Hague, the Netherlands, 09 November 2020. EPA-EFE/JERRY LAMPEN

Kosovo War Trial Witness Alleges Guerrillas Killed His Brother

At the trial of Kosovo’s ex-President Hashim Thaci and three other former guerrilla leaders in The Hague, a witness claimed his brother was abducted and killed by Kosovo Liberation Army members during the war.

A protected witness in the war crimes and crimes against humanity trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three co-defendants testified at the Kosovo Special Chambers in The Hague on Tuesday and Wednesday that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army murdered his brother during the war.

“My brother in 1998 lost his life due to individuals in the KLA,” the witness said, testifying anonymously.

In July 1998, KLA members asked the witness’s brother to get out of a car in which the witness and other members of his family were driving home near Drenoc/Drenovac, the witness recalled.

The guerrillas halted the family for three hours and then told them to continue on their way, but did not release the brother of the witness.

Various family members and relatives tried to get in touch with the abducted brother in the days that followed but did not manage to do so. His body has never been found.

Thaci and his co-defendants Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi are accused of having individual and command responsibility for crimes that were mainly committed against prisoners held at KLA detention facilities in Kosovo and neighbouring Albania, including 102 murders.

The defendants, who all became senior politicians in Kosovo after the war, allegedly committed the crimes between at least March 1998 and September 1999, during and just after the war with Serbian forces. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

According to the indictment, six victims were murdered in Drenoc/Drenovac on undisclosed dates in 1998 and one on June 12, 1998. Four victims were also forcibly disappeared on undisclosed dates in 1998.

Because of the witness’s health problems, the judges have accepted the prosecution’s proposal to admit previous testimony from the witness, who had given his testimony on three occasions, in 2004 and 2005 to the UN interim mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, and to the Hague prosecution in 2020.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up in 2015 by the Kosovo parliament, acting under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who believed that Kosovo’s own justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from intimidation. Previous trials at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal were marred by witness-tampering.

The trial will continue on August 14.

20/07/2023 - 13:04

20 July 2023 - 13:04

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