Kosovo official says ex-leaders' trial is taking too long

·2 min read

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A senior Kosovo official on Friday criticized the length of the international trial process for detained former independence fighters charged with war crimes during and after the 1998-1999 war in the Balkan country.

Kosovo’s parliament speaker Glauk Konjufca left for The Hague, Netherlands, to meet with five ex-leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, including Kosovo's ex-president Hashim Thaci and ex-parliament speaker Kadri Veseli. All five have denied wrongdoing. The first arrest was made in September 2020, three months after the charges were made public.

Konjufca criticized the lengthy process, citing suspects’ rights to be tried “within the most reasonable time frame possible.”

“We are not seeing that at the special court,” Konjufca told journalists. He is the first senior Kosovar leader to visit the war crime suspects. Last month Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama went to The Hague to meet Thaci.

A European Union-backed war crimes court, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and a linked prosecutor’s office, were established following a 2011 report by the Council of Europe. The human rights organization’s report included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners, slain Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians.

The court, established in The Hague in part due to fears for the safety of witnesses, is part of the Kosovo legal system.

It has started the trial only for one out of the five defendants.

Last month it sentenced to imprisonment two leaders of a Kosovo war veterans’ association for witness intimidation and obstructing justice.

More than 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died during the war. About 1 million were driven from their homes before a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbia to pull its troops out of its former province and to cede its control to the United Nations and NATO.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The United States and most of the West recognize the declaration, but Serbia — supported by allies Russia and China — does not.

The Associated Press

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