The defence of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and other Kosovo Liberation Army ex-guerrillas accused of war crimes claimed that Hague prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that could help prove their innocence.
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Status conference at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers on Thursday. Photo: Kosovo Specialist Chambers/Livestream.
Defence lawyers for Hashim Thaci and his fellow former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas turned politicians Kadri Veseli, Jakup Krasniqi and Rexhep Selimi told a status conference in their war crimes case at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on Thursday that the prosecution had intentionally not disclosed evidence that could boost their case.
Veseli’s lawyer, Ben Emmerson, told the court that the Special Prosecutor’s Office did not disclose “evidence that the Serbian forces on the ground in Kosovo used Chinese ammunition, different from the ammunition the Serbian forces officially used, to implicate the KLA in crimes they did not commit”.
“Why has that evidence still not been disclosed?” Emmerson asked, insisting that “it goes directly to the indictment”.
The prosecution insisted however that “we are disclosing what we believe to be within the scope of requirements”.
Thaci’s lawyer, Gregory Kehoe, also accused the court of “not working efficiently”.
“It has been 16 months [that] these men have been in prison,” Kehoe said.
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. Thaci stepped down as Kosovo’s president in November 2020 to fight the case in The Hague.
On Wednesday, an appeals panel at the Specialist Chambers announced that the indictment can be amended to include two detention sites at new locations and two incidents of persecution that were not previously listed.
It said that the incidents provide “further examples of the accused’s personal participation in the intimidation, interrogation, mistreatment and detention of opponents”.
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.
Source link: balkaninsight.com