The Hague-based Kosovo Specialized Chambers extend the detention of former President Hashim Thaci – EU-OCS

The specialized chambers of Kosovo have widened the period of detention of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci before his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo.

Judge Nicolas Guillou rejected a request by Thaci’s defense team for his release, citing the risk that Thaci could abscond, obstruct the progress of the proceedings of the specialized chambers or pose a threat to witnesses giving evidence in the case.

Thaci’s defense argued that the Kosovo Police Force had prepared sufficiently “to implement a series of additional measures to ensure the effective implementation, supervision and enforcement of any further measures ordered by the pre-trial judge” in order to keep Thaci under control.

Thaci’s defense also suggested that Thaci’s detention be moved to a third country not known to the public.

According to the prosecution, “no condition of release in Kosovo can mitigate the particular risks involved”.

Ultimately, Judge Guillou concluded that the “risk of absconding; the risks of obstruction and committing other crimes” was too great, and that “no other conditions that could be implemented could sufficiently address the risks posed by Mr. Thaci”.

The Kosovo Specialized Chambers (KSC) were established in 2015 to investigate alleged crimes against ethnic minorities and political opponents by the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) during the conflict in which Kosovo broke up from Serbia. The tribunal is bound by Kosovo law, but is composed of international judges and prosecutors.

Thaci and his three co-defendants were accused of having committed a series of war crimes and crimes against humanity from March 1998 to September 1999, including unlawful detention, torture, murder, enforced disappearance and persecution.

In June 2020, the special prosecutor accused the Kosovar leader to be “criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders”.

News of the indictment, first announced in November 2020, has been welcomed by human rights groups and civic organizations.

“[Thaci’s indictment] brings hope to thousands of Kosovo war victims who have been waiting for more than two decades for the horrific crimes committed against them and their loved ones,” noted Jelena Sesar, a Balkan researcher at Amnesty International at the time.

Thaci is a former senior KLA commander. He resigned from the presidency after charges were brought in order to “defend the integrity of the state”. He denied the charges against him.

Similarly, Serbia has prosecuted a number of former soldiers, paramilitaries and police for the alleged murder of ethnic Albanians during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

picture by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

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