Kosovo President and Opposition Leader Indicted for War Crimes

A reckoning for 2500 Kosovar Serb civilians who were slaughtered is at hand.

More than two decades after their part in atrocities during the brutal Yugoslav Wars, ten key Kosovo Liberation Army leaders are being brought to justice.

AP (“Kosovo president, 9 others indicted on war crimes charges“):

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and nine other former separatist fighters were indicted Wednesday on a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes charges, including murder, by an international prosecutor probing their actions against ethnic Serbs and others during and after Kosovo’s 1998-99 independence war with Serbia.


A statement from the prosecutor of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers said Thaci and the nine others “are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders” involving hundreds of Serb and Roma victims, as well as Kosovo Albanian political opponents. Other charges include enforced disappearance, persecution and torture, he said.

A pretrial judge at The Hague-based court is currently studying the indictment and could still reject it if there is not enough evidence to back it up. If there is enough evidence to support the charges, the pretrial judge will confirm them.

Thaci was a commander of the so-called Kosovo Liberation army, or KLA, that fought for independence from Serbia. The war left more than 10,000 dead — most of them ethnic Albanians — and 1,641 are still unaccounted for. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.
The former ethnic Albanian-dominated province declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia did not recognize.

The indicted group includes Kadri Veseli, former parliament speaker and leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo.


“Crimes in Kosovo were committed by Serbs, not Albanians,” [Veseli] said, calling it an attempt to rewrite history.

Several top Serbian officials and military officers have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a different war crimes court in The Hague for crimes committed by Serbian troops during the war.

“The court is trying to stain our liberating war, our aspiration for freedom and independence and legalize the (Serb) crimes in Kosovo,”said Bardhyl Mahmuti, a former KLA political representative, to the public television station, RTK.

The indictment was the first made by the prosecutor of the special tribunal for Kosovo based in The Hague. The court has been operating since 2015 and has questioned hundreds of witnesses. Kosovo’s prime minister resigned last year before he was questioned.

The prosecutor filed the indictment following a lengthy investigation and it reflects his “determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” the statement said.

The prosecutor also accused Thaci and Veseli of repeated efforts “to obstruct and undermine the work” of the tribunal. “Thaci and Veseli 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,” the statement said.
“By taking these actions, Mr. Thaci and Mr. Veseli have put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo,” it added.

Kosovo politicians resisted and resented the scrutiny of the war crimes court, repeatedly noting that Serb troops committed massacres and other atrocities during the war that went unpunished.

There was a series of unspeakable atrocities committed by numerous sides during that awful conflict. Prior to today, 161 people have been indicted for those crimes. Only a handful have been acquitted. The remainder were either convicted and sentenced or died (whether by suicide or natural causes) during the long, drawn-out process. Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was the most famous of these, dying in prison in 2006 before a verdict could be rendered.

The KLA was hardly the most egregious of the perpetrators, at least in terms of scale. But the fact that their war crimes were made possible by the intervention of a US-led NATO coalition makes it all the more necessary to hold them to account. We saved them from certainly slaughter at the hands of the Serbs only to have them turn around and murder innocents.

That the reckoning is coming more than two decades after the fact, though, is something of a farce. Justice delayed, after all, is justice denied.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RaflW says:

    Jasmin Mujanović, a Balkans expert living in the larger region, had this to say yesterday.

    In Serbia you basically have a one-party state in place, while in Kosovo there is a complete breakdown of the political system. The current PM & govt have very little credibility, largely thx to Thaci & Grenell’s meddling. And now Thaci has been indicted. Grenell is up a creek.

    The prospect of a major Kosovo-Serbia deal was one of the few foreign policy tricks Trump had left in his pocket ahead of Nov. Grenell was thus given a wide leash to deliver on the project. The odds were always extremely low — now they’re underground, IMO. Utter boondoggle.

    He’s an excellent follow, IMO. @JasminMuj I’ve become much more interested in the region after a trip to Belgrade and Zagreb two summers ago.