The Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague extended the detention of former President Hashim Thaci, who is facing war crimes charges, citing concerns that he might abscond or interfere with witnesses.

This article is also available in: Shqip Bos/Hrv/Srp

Kosovo Special Court Extends Ex-President Thaci’s Detention

Hashim Thaci at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague in November 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/JERRY LAMPEN.

The pre-trial judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, Nicolas Guillou, extended detention for Hashim Thaci ahead of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo.

Judge Guillou turned down a defence request for the release of Thaci, who was one of the wartime leaders of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.

“The pre-trial judge concludes that the risks that Mr. Thaci will abscond, obstruct the progress of SC [Specialist Chambers] proceedings, or commit further crimes against those perceived as being opposed to the KLA, including witnesses who have provided or could provide evidence in the case and/or are due to appear before the SC, continue to exist,” Guillou said.

Thaci’s defence had argued that Kosovo’s police force had guaranteed “its readiness to implement a series of additional measures to ensure the effective implementation, supervision and enforcement of any other measures ordered by the pre-trial judge” to keep check on Thaci.

But the prosecution insisted that “no conditions of release in Kosovo can mitigate the particular risks at issue”.

Thaci’s defence had also suggested that Thaci be placed in a third country, unknown to the public, which had said it would follow the judge’s orders.

However, judge Guillou concluded that “risk of flight; risks of obstruction and committing further crimes” cannot be ignored, and that “no other conditions that might be implemented could sufficiently address the risks posed by Mr. Thaci”.

The decision to extend custody for Thaci was made on December 14 but only made public this week.

Thaci and three co-defendants are accused of a series of war crimes and crimes against humanity including illegal detentions, torture, murder, enforced disappearances and persecution from at least March 1998 to September 1999.

The indictment alleges that they were part of a “joint criminal enterprise” that aimed to take control over Kosovo “by means including unlawfully intimidating, mistreating, committing violence against, and removing those deemed to be opponents”.

Most of the crimes in the indictment were allegedly committed at KLA detention centres in Kosovo and Albania.

All four men have pleaded not guilty.

The Specialist Chambers are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.

They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who feared that Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from interference.

But the so-called ‘special court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.

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