COVID-19 Special Coverage
Kosovo president indicted for war crimes

Hashim Thaci, the President of Kosovo, was indicted Wednesday by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) for crimes against humanity committed during the 1998-1999 Serbian civil war.

The SPO filed a 10-count indictment “charging Hashim THAÇI, Kadri VESELI, and others with a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.” It also alleges that the “charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders,” and the murders include “hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents.”

The indictment is only an accusation but was filed after a “lengthy investigation and reflects the SPO’s determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.” The charges will be reviewed by a KSC Pre-Trial Judge who will decide within six months whether to confirm the charges.

The SPO also made it clear that it “deemed it necessary to issue this public notice of charges because of repeated efforts by Hashim THAÇI and Kadri VESELI to obstruct and undermine the work of the KSC.” Additionally, both suspects are “believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice.” They concluded by stating such actions show that they “have put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo.”

The KSC and SPO were created “pursuant to an international agreement ratified by the Kosovo Assembly, a Constitutional Amendment and the Law on Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.” They are temporary legal structures with “a specific mandate and jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law, which were commenced or committed in Kosovo between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000 by or against citizens of Kosovo or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.” Both offices are positioned in The Hague and have an international staff.

Thaci led Kosovo’s bloody guerrilla civil war against Serbia as the commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). His leadership as both prime minister and now president has been plagued with accusations of assassinations and purges committed against Serbs, his own men and political rivals during the conflict. Thaci has maintained his innocence against all allegations.

The indictment has also caused diplomatic ripples as Thaci was scheduled to visit the White House this Saturday alongside President Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia. Many expected that the meeting would initiate peace talks between the two in the coming months. However, Thaci has reportedly now canceled his trip in reaction to the indictments.