Former Kosovo president Hashim Thaçi appears before the Kosovo Tribunal together with Rexhep Selimi (R) in the Hague, the Netherlands, 03 April 2023. EPA-EFE/Koen van Weel / POOL

Witness at Thaci Trial ‘Found Body of Victim of Kosovo Guerrillas’

A witness at the trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three co-defendants told the court in The Hague that he found the body of a man who was killed after being seized by masked men with Kosovo Liberation Army insignia.

The fifth witness in the war crimes and crimes against humanity trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three others told the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on Monday that masked men wearing Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA emblems kidnapped three people and murdered one of them.

The witness told the court that he saw two or three masked men all wearing the same black uniform with KLA emblems kidnaping three people. Two of them were freed but the third was killed, he claimed.

“I went and found him killed,” said the witness, who used to be a KLA member himself.

“I wasn’t present myself [when the victim was killed], but besides them [the KLA men in black uniforms] I don’t believe there were others [who could have killed the victim],” he added.

The trial of Thaci and his three co-accused, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi, and Jakup Krasniqi – all former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA leaders who later became senior politicians – opened on April 3.

But since then the witnesses, who have been testifying anonymously, have mainly been heard in closed sessions. On May 17, the judging panel expressed concern about the hearings being held in private.

While issuing an oral order asking the defence and prosecution to say what steps they can take to “ensure greater degree of publicity of these proceedings” by May 31, the judges also asked them to “respect the public character of the proceedings”.

The judges noted that “the accused are entitled to a fair and public hearing and that there is public interest in these proceedings taking place, to the extent possible, in a public fashion”.

Thaci and the other defendants are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed between at least March 1998 and September 1999, during and just after the war in Kosovo with Serbian forces.

They 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. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Specialist Chambers are part of Kosovo’s judicial system, but are located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals. The so-called Specialist Court is highly unpopular in Kosovo, where it is seen as unfairly targeting Kosovo Albanian freedom fighters rather than the Serbian perpetrators of the majority of the war crimes committed in 1998-99.

They were set up in 2015 by the Kosovo parliament, acting under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who said 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 continues on Tuesday.

23/05/2023 - 11:32

23 May 2023 - 11:32

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.