A special prosecutor’s office dealing with Kosovo’s 1998-99 uprising against Serbian rule said on Wednesday it had indicted Kosovo President Hashim Thaci for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity including nearly 100 murders.
The Specialist Chamber was set up in The Hague in 2015 to handle cases of alleged crimes by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas during the war that led to Kosovo’s independence from Serbia a decade later.
The indictment is “the result of a lengthy investigation and reflects the SPO’s (Special Prosecutor’s Office) determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” the SPO said in a statement.
It said “others” had also been indicted including Kadri Veseli, a former speaker of Kosovo’s parliament. Thaci and Veseli, both ex-top commanders in the KLA, have previously denied involvement in any war crimes during the late 1990s conflict. The SPO gave no details of the alleged war crimes.
It also said Thaci and Veseli were believed “to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law that created the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice.”
Thaci is due to travel to the United States later this week for a first round of White House-mediated talks with Serbia over normalising relations – one of the key conditions the European Union has set for either country to join the bloc.
The Specialist Chamber is governed by Kosovo law but is staffed by international judges and prosecutors, and is funded by the EU, which both Kosovo and Serbia are keen to join.
The court sits in the Dutch city partly to help ensure protection of witnesses. Before the court was created, some investigations involving high-ranking former KLA officers were marked by witness intimidation.
No top KLA figures have been convicted of war crimes to date. Several senior members of the Serbian security forces were convicted and imprisoned over war crimes in the Kosovo conflict by the separate U.N. tribunal for former Yugoslavia.