Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj in court. Photos: EPA-EFE/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/POOL.

Kosovo War Veterans’ Leaders ‘Tried to Derail Hague Court’

In closing statements at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, prosecutors said the leaders of Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans’ Organisation tried to use leaked case files to ‘dissolve’ the Hague-based war crimes court.

On the first day of closing statements at the trial of Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on Monday, prosecutor Valeria Bolici claimed that the defendants wanted to undermine the so-called ‘special court’, which they believe is unjustly trying to prosecute Kosovo Liberation Army ex-guerrillas for war crimes.

“In 15 public appearances and statements, the accused have declared they were carrying out these actions in order to disperse this court, so this court would be dissolved,” Bolici said.

Gucati and Haradinaj, the leader and deputy leader of the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation, are accused of obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.

The two men were charged after they received batches of legal documents leaked from the Specialist Chambers, which contained confidential information about protected witnesses in cases against KLA ex-guerrillas, and urged media in Kosovo to publish extracts from them. They have both pleaded not guilty.

As evidence for their alleged motive, the prosecution showed video recordings of the accused appearing on Kosovo TV shows and saying that they wanted the Specialist Chambers to be dissolved.

In one of the video interviews, Gucati says that “it is my pleasure to stop the work of that court”. In another video interview, Haradinaj says that “we can dissolve that court in five minutes”.

“It is incontestable that both have held three press conferences, dated September 7,16, 22, 2020,” Bolici said. She added that it has not been denied that Gucati and Haradinaj “announced they possessed confidential documents” which could identify protected witnesses.

Bolici was referring to boxes of court documents that were left in the hallway of the offices of the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation, on September 6, 2020.

In the boxes were case files containing the names and personal information of potential witnesses in war crimes investigations at the Specialist Chambers. Gucati and Haradinaj then held press conferences to publicise the leaked files.

“It is recorded that they [Gucati and Haradinaj] addressed the witnesses or called the witnesses and those who collaborated with this court traitors, liars, spies and accomplices, and they said that these witnesses could no longer be protected,” Bolici said.

Both men claim that they did not force anyone to take or publish the documents. They accuse the prosecution of failing to prevent the leak of the confidential documents from war crimes cases and blaming the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation for this failure.

Closing statements in the trial are scheduled to take place all week.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up, under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, to try crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals and are widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see the court as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.

Witness protection has been a key concern for the Specialist Chambers after incidents of witness-tampering at previous trials of KLA commanders.

14/03/2022 - 18:36

14 March 2022 - 18:36

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