Former Kosovo Leader Denies War Crimes Allegations


Hashim Thaci, the former president and prime minister of Kosovo, is seen as a war hero in much of his home nation, having led the country in its struggle for independence from Serbia. But in other parts of the world, Mr. Thaci has a very different reputation as the political leader of rebels accused of various war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred after Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority demanded independence from Serbia and the larger former Yugoslavia.

On Monday, Mr. Thaci appeared in the Hague, capital of The Netherlands, in the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a special tribunal funded by the European Union, along with three other members of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), to face ten charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He pleaded not guilty to each one, as did his three co-accused, who include the intelligence head, Kadri Veseli; spokesman Jakup Krasniqi; and operations head, Rexhep Selimi.

The prosecution alleges that these four defendants were involved in terrible crimes, including torture and the murders of apparent collaborators and opponents of the KLA during and after the war. The defense team will argue that these men were not responsible, because the KLA operated in decentralized groups with local and regional leaders who were not under the control of their superiors.

The European Union offered Kosovo a path to autonomy in 1999, but there has been opposition from Serbia and other non-European countries, which have refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence. The KLA already faced legal action, with six defendants tried in the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia, which has previously convicted and sentenced many senior senior Serbian political and military officials, though the late Slobodan Milosevic died before the end of his trial.

This trial has been seen as an effort to bring accountability to a nation that has suffered war crimes, but whose citizens still consider the defendants to be national heroes; to this end, many demonstrations have been held to support the accused and protest the court itself. These demonstrations are seen by advocates of the court as emblematic of a culture of impunity that they would like to end.

Mr. Thaci has been in custody since he travelled to The Hague in late 2020. After his indictment, he resigned from the presidency of Kosovo, where he had previously been in office from 2016.

European Union is the main provider of funding for this tribunal. The Union offered autonomy to Kosovo in 1999 and wanted to assist in the resolution for people and states as part of their post-war arrangement. Though it is the international court, Kosovo government is paying for the defense of those indicted.

Additionally, the individual mentioned in this article is Hashim Thaci, former president and prime minister of Kosovo. He led the country through its fight for independence from Serbia, but he is now on trial with three other members of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army in a special tribunal funded by the European Union. He has pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is facing, while his defense team is arguing that he was not directly responsible for any alleged crimes committed.