April 13. 2024. 6:25

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Solidarity march in Pristina on eve of trial against Kosovo’s KLA fighters


A solidarity march was held in Kosovo’s capital of Pristina in support of former Kosovo LIberation Army members who are facing trial in The Hague, with citizens calling for justice.

The Special Chambers court was set up to try Kosovo Albanians for alleged war crimes committed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo-Serbia war. It has been controversial since the outset as no similar structure exists for Serbia, the aggressor in the conflict.

“A river of people forcibly expelled from their homes by the Serbian army and paramilitaries had filled the train station. That station, which was closed for more than ten years, was opened that day to drive us out of Kosovo on a path of no return. Yes, we returned, and these squares were filled again to celebrate liberation and independence,” said one protestor, quoted by Gazeta Express.

Throngs of citizens gathered in the centre of Pristina and marched, one day before the start of the trial of pivotal members of the KLA, Hashim Thaci former president, Kadri Veselin former chairman of parliament, Jakup Krasniqi, former acting president, and Rexhep Selimin, a deputy of the Vetevendosja movement.

“And believing strongly in justice, we have no doubt that they will return as victors, as they once came, as liberators, because they are living heroes, who, apart from freedom, have not had a second mission and apart from independence, they have not have a backup project. Today, we stand in solidarity with them,” said the Chairman of the Democratic Party, Memli Krasniqi.

The four face charges of war crimes stemming from the war. The hearing on Monday will serve to familiarise the accused with the charges, while on 11 April, the hearing of some 300 witnesses will begin.

“Each of the accused has been charged based on individual criminal responsibility with six counts of crimes against humanity: persecution, imprisonment, other inhumane acts, torture, unlawful killing and enforced disappearance of persons. Also, four charges of war crimes have been brought against each accused: illegal and arbitrary arrest and detention, cruel treatment, torture and illegal killing”, a court press release states.

In the Indictment, it is claimed that Thaçi, Veseli, Selimi and Krasniqi bear individual criminal responsibility based on different forms of criminal responsibility for crimes committed in the context of a non-international armed conflict in Kosovo which were part of a widespread attack and systematically against persons who were suspected of being opponents of the KLA”, it continues.

According to the court, 140 people have been admitted to the case as victims and have demonstrated “physical, mental, or material damage as a direct consequence of a crime.”

It is estimated the case will conclude by 1 April 2025, during which time the three will remain in prison in The Hague.

“This trial is of four people accused of committing terrible crimes during and after the war, when the fighting had stopped, including against people from various ethnic groups,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“It offers a chance after so many years for the victims to learn what happened and highlights the pervasive impunity that still hangs over the Kosovo conflict, and more broadly over the wars in the former Yugoslavia.”

However, Human Rights Watch noted that the conflict was marked by an “overwhelming majority” of crimes committed by Serbian and Yugoslav forces, including murder, rape, torture, forced displacement, and hiding bodies.

It continues that the Serbian government has refused to disclose the location of mass graves, adding, “Only a small number of Serbian military and political leaders have faced trial for war crimes in the Kosovo conflict, including former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

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There was never a plan to kill former Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty in 2020, Serbian intelligence forces (BIA) said after an investigation on Swiss state television said they planned to do so and blame Kosovo.

Marty was a member of the …

The Specialist Chambers stem from a 2010 Council of Europe Report by Swiss Senator Dick Marty. The EU analysed the report, which found grounds for indictments and established the US-supported chambers.

In Serbia, a war crimes court tried 60 people for crimes in Kosovo, convicting 23. But the Serbian government has shown no political will to prosecute anyone above low-level forces, and some cases have dragged on for years.

“The Thaçi trial can help set Kosovo on a clearer path towards justice and the rule of law after a history of oppression,” Williamson said. “And it puts the spotlight squarely on the Serbian government to hold its forces to account after years of protecting those responsible for grave crimes.”

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(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)