2 Apr. (EUROPE PRESS) –
Former President Hashim Thaci appears this Monday before the Special Tribunal for Kosovo in The Hague at the beginning of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity for participating, according to the statement of charges, in a campaign of persecution, murder, torture and disappearances both from Kosovo Serbs and other communities and from the opposition to the Kosovo Albanian militia of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), where he served as a political leader during the open conflict between 1998 and 1999.
Along with Thaci, the political leader of the UCK, three other former leaders of this guerrilla group are indicted: the former leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo Kadri Veseli, the head of the parliamentary group of the Kosovar opposition party Vetevendosje, Rexhep Selimi, and the president of the national council of the Social Democratic Initiative party, Jakup Krasniqi.
Specifically, the court accused Thaci — resigned from his position in 2020, after hearing the statement of charges — and the three former UCK officials with their participation in a “joint criminal enterprise” that, from March 1998 to September of 1999, focused on “gaining and exercising control of all of Kosovo with measures that include “illegal bullying”, violence and the “elimination” of those who “appear to be opponents”.
According to the letter, the UCK included in this group of “opponents” people who “collaborated or were related” to the Serbian forces or authorities or those “who did not support the objectives or goals” of the guerrilla group and, subsequently, of the “Provisional Government of Kosovo”, including people “connected” to the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) party, the Serb community, Roma and other ethnic groups. All the defendants have declared their innocence.
The trial marks a reunion of Kosovo with its past. War veterans and nationalist groups have announced calls for protests throughout the process amid pleas from survivors for the trial to shed light on the fate of the more than 1,600 people who went missing after the war, according to data from United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
For the person in charge of communication for Europe of the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Jan Kooy, the opening of the trial in The Hague against Thaci and his comrades “reveals the flagrant absence of justice that has characterized the conflict in Kosovo and, in fact, all the wars of the former Yugoslavia.”
HRW also expresses its wish that this case serve as a trigger for a more extensive accountability process. In Serbia, a war crimes tribunal has tried 60 people for crimes in Kosovo and sentenced 23 of them but, as HRW recalls, “the Serbian government has shown no political will to prosecute anyone above the forces of low level,” and some of those cases have gone on for years.
“The Thaci trial may help set Kosovo on a clearer path to justice and the rule of law after a history of oppression,” said HRW director for Europe and Central Asia, Hugh Williamson. “And he puts the spotlight squarely on the Serbian government to hold its own forces to account after years of protecting those responsible for serious crimes,” he stressed.