Hague War Court Rejects Hashim Thaci’s Plea for Release

28. October 2021.13:08
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers rejected an appeal for conditional release by former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who is in custody in the Netherlands awaiting trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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Hashim Thaci with his lawyer David Hooper in court in The Hague in November 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/JERRY LAMPEN.

The appeals chamber at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on Wednesday rejected ex-President Hashim Thaci’s plea for conditional release from pre-trial detention because there is still a risk that he might abscond.

Thaci had argued in his appeal that the pre-trial judge was wrong to conclude that he continues to play a significant role and wield influence and authority in Kosovo.

He claimed that he was now in the weakest position of his political career because his party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, did poorly in this year’s elections and “can no longer even attract enough support to become a viable opposition”. The PDK only won 19 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

Thaci also argued that his status as a high-ranking former Kosovo Liberation Army member “did not automatically, and of itself, provide him with any position of influence or authority after the end of the conflict”, a court document said.

The pre-trial judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which were set up to try former KLA guerrillas for crimes committed during and after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000, had argued that Thaci could abscond, obstruct the progress of proceedings at the Hague court, or commit further crimes against those perceived as being opposed to the KLA, including potential witnesses.

The pre-trial judge cited what he said were Thaci’s “attempts to undermine the Specialist Chambers and his offer of benefits to persons summoned by the SPO [Sopecialist Prosecutor’s Office”, as well as the “high risk of intimidation or interference for witnesses and/or their family members”, and the “persisting climate of intimidation of witnesses and interference with criminal proceedings against former KLA members”.

The appeals chamber found that it was “reasonable for the pre-trial judge to consider that Thaci undoubtedly continued to exercise a certain degree of influence over his former subordinates despite his recent resignation as president of Kosovo”. Thaci resigned after he was charged with war crimes.

The appeals chamber also said that “any recent change of the political landscape in Kosovo is of little relevance” to Thaci’s continued influence in Kosovo.

It further ruled that that Thaci “failed to establish” that the length of the pre-detention is unreasonable at this stage in the proceedings against him, and denied his appeal for conditional release.

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.

This post is also available in: Bosnian