Hashim Thaci in the courtroom in The Hague in November 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/JERRY LAMPEN.

Kosovo’s Thaci Didn’t Give Orders to Guerrillas: Trial Witness

Former Kosovo Liberation Army officer Sadik Halitjaha told the trial of Hashim Thaci and other wartime guerrilla leaders in The Hague that contrary to prosecution claims, the KLA’s General Staff didn’t give orders and the guerrilla force didn’t have a defined military structure.

Sadik Halitjaha, former deputy commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army’s Pashtrik Operational Zone, told the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague this week that the KLA’s General Staff did not give his fighters orders, and even military regulations were compiled at the operational zone level.

Halitjaha also told the trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three co-defendants that attempts to give the KLA a proper army structure remained on paper.

“I don’t remember having received any order” from the General Staff, Halitjaha told the court on Friday.

The prosecution is seeking to prove that Thaci and his three co-defendants, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi, and Jakup Krasniqi, who are on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, were responsible as senior KLA officers for crimes committed by their subordinates.

Halitjaha said on Monday that there were no agreed protocols between the KLA’s various operational zones and the General Staff. But in the Pashtrik zone, where he was deputy commander, he and others compiled their own regulations.

He also testified that there were no ranks in the traditional military sense in the KLA.

Answering questions from Thaci’s lawyer, Gregory Kehoe, Halitjaha told the court that “we did not receive any orders from Hashim Thaci” because giving orders “was not part of his job description… he was more like a politician, a commissar, than a warrior, who only worked theoretically on how the war was being fought”.

The witness also claimed he only met Thaci twice during the war.

Thaci, Veseli, Selimi and 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 crimes were allegedly committed between at least March 1998 and September 1999, during and just after the war with Serbian forces. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

During his testimony, Halitjaha told the court that there were cases of civilians using their connections to a member of the KLA to denounce someone as a spy in order to “take revenge over personal matters”.

He also mentioned a case in which a civilian sent a list of names from his village, claiming certain people were spies just because they were seen sitting with or talking to Serbs. Halitjaha claimed he tore the list up because he knew the people who had been denounced were not spies.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up in 2015 to try former KLA guerrillas for wartime and post-war crimes. The court was established in The Hague 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.

16/11/2023 - 16:37

16 November 2023 - 16:37

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