Thaci pleads not guilty to war crimes

At the Specialist Chambers at the Hague on Monday, recently-resigned President Hashim Thaci pleaded not guilty to allegations that he committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kosovo and Albania in 1998 and 1999.

In his first appearance before the Hague-based Specialist Chambers on Monday, former President Hashim Thaci rejected charges accusing him of wartime crimes.

“I heard and read them and I do not agree with any of them,” said Thaci, who stepped down as President last week before he was sent to The Hague for trial. “The indictment is completely without basis and I plead not guilty,” he added.

Thaci is charged, alongside three other former senior Kosovo Liberation Army members – Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi, Jakup Krasniqi – with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed from “at least March 1998 through September 1999” in Kosovo and Albania.

According to the ten-count indictment, the four KLA men were part of a joint criminal enterprise and “shared the common purpose to gain and exercise control over all of Kosovo by means including unlawfully intimidating, mistreating, committing violence against, and removing those deemed to be opponents.”

The indictment says that these opponents included people who were, or were perceived to have been, collaborating or associating with Yugoslav forces or did not support the aims or means of the KLA, including ethnic Albanians associated with other movements, Serbs, Roma and people of other ethnicities.

This joint criminal enterprise was involved in “crimes of persecution, imprisonment, illegal or arbitrary arrest and detention, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, torture, murder, and enforced disappearance of persons,” the indictment claims.

Thaci is considered to be a key member of the joint criminal enterprise due to his role, first as a founding member of the KLA, then as head of its Political and Information Directorate, and after that, from March 1999, as prime minister of the Provisional Government of Kosovo and the KLA’s commander-in-chief.

Most of the alleged crimes in the indictment were committed in detention centres in 15 municipalities in Kosovo and two districts in Albania, Kukes and Has. The indictment claims that these alleged crimes “were intended to serve as a warning and to exert pressure on the targeted population as a whole, deterring opposition to, and enforcing absolute unity behind the KLA.”

The indictment adds that Thaci formulated and/or participated in the development, approval, promotion, dissemination, and implementation of plans, policies, and practices in furtherance of the common purpose, including in the form of communiques, public statements, internal rules and regulations, structures, and information-gathering and reporting mechanisms.

Thaci also is alleged to have participated “in facilitating, condoning, encouraging, and/or otherwise aiding in the crimes…failed to take adequate steps to prevent and investigate crimes, and/or punish or discipline the perpetrators” and played a key role in “providing, arranging, and/or facilitating political, logistical, military, and/or financial support” to accused KLA members to commit crimes.

Thaci also “took steps to intimidate and assert dominance over units affiliated with the [opposing group] LDK, including the government-in-exile affiliated Armed Forces of Kosovo Republic (‘FARK’)”, the indictment claims.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up 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.

They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who feared that Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from interference.

The so-called ‘special court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.

09/11/2020 - 16:31

09 November 2020 - 16:31

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