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Kosovo President Thaci, PDK head Veseli indicted for war crimes

A special prosecutor for war crimes in Kosovo announced on Wednesday that an indictment has been filed against President Hashim Thaci and others, including the head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Kadri Veseli.

Pristina, 24 June 2020 (dpa/MIA) – A special prosecutor for war crimes in Kosovo announced on Wednesday that an indictment has been filed against President Hashim Thaci and others, including the head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Kadri Veseli.

The group is accused of 10 counts covering “a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.”

“The indictment alleges that … Thaci, Veseli and the other charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders, involving hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents.”

Thaci and Veseli were leaders in the ethnic Albanian guerrilla the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought Belgrade’s security forces in 1998-99.

The prosecutor’s office said the indictment was filed to the Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) for review on April 24 and it is pending approval.

It also said that it published the details because Thaci and Veseli repeatedly attempted to “obstruct and undermine” the work of the court.

They “are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the court and otherwise obstruct the work of the court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice,” the statement said.

The KSC was established in 2015 following a 2011 report by the Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty linking top former KLA officials to atrocities committed against Serbs or those thought to be working with Serbs during and after the Kosovo conflict.

The court was endorsed by the Kosovo parliament but only after lengthy resistance and public protests in support of KLA fighters, most of them widely regarded as heroes amongst the Albanians.

It operates under Kosovo law but is staffed with international judges and prosecutors and has its seat in The Hague, in order to minimize the influence on witnesses of the accused, with many leading politicians stemming from the KLA.

The UN International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had tried the former Kosovo prime minister and KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj twice and cleared him due to a lack of evidence, but amid media reports of witness intimidation.

Thaci, 52, was the KLA’s political director. He launched the PDK in late 1999 and formally resigned as its leader, making way for Veseli, before he was elected president in April 2016.

Shortly after the announcement of the indictment against him, Thaci cancelled his trip to Washington scheduled for US-mediated talks with Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic.

“The President of Kosovo has just informed us that he has canceled his trip to Washington, D.C. following the announcement made by the Special Prosecutors Office,” said President Donald Trump’s envoy for the talks, Richard Grenell.

“I respect his decision not to attend the discussions until the legal issues of those allegations are settled,” he tweeted, adding that the meeting would go ahead as planned on Saturday with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti.

The US rapidly became involved in the normalization process for Kosovo that had been brokered by the European Union for nearly a decade. In Kosovo, Grenell sidelined the government and parliament and pushed for Thaci to continue the negotiations.

With its dominant Albanian population, Kosovo was formerly a province of Serbia. The Albanians rebelled against Belgrade’s rule and guerrilla attacks quickly expanded into a war, marked by the Serbian forces’ heavy-handed response.

Many Serbian politicians, police and army officers, including the late strongman leader Slobodan Milosevic, were tried at the ICTY for atrocities in Kosovo.

However, the KLA was also accused of crimes against non-Albanians and Albanians deemed as Serbian collaborators, but very few were sentenced by the ICTY and local courts.

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