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Ex-guerrilla leaders’ trial hears assault allegations

Ex-guerrilla leaders' trial hears assault allegations

The seventh witness in the war crimes and crimes against humanity trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three other former guerrilla leaders told the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on May 23 that he suffered psychologically after he was injured by KLA fighters.

“For two years I constantly saw a psychologist,” the witness, who was testifying anonymously, told the court.

According to the witness, he used to work in agriculture but was no longer able to do so after his injury.

The witness also claimed that his car had been taken by KLA soldiers and that he had not received any compensation for it.

The majority of his testimony was held in a closed session to protect his identity, and it was not clear when or where the alleged assault took place.

So far the majority of the trial of Thaci and his co-defendants Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi, and Jakup Krasniqi – all former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA leaders who later became senior politicians – has been held in closed sessions.

Amer Alija, legal analyst at the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo, which monitors the trials at the Specialist Chambers, told BIRN last month that closed hearings hinder the work of monitors and journalists prevent the general public from following the judicial process properly.

“Even professional monitors of the justice system will encounter difficulties if a large part of the main hearing is closed to the public,” Alija said.

The testimony of the sixth witness, which started on Monday afternoon and ended on Tuesday, was also held mainly in a closed session.

The witness told the court that one man who was badly beaten by KLA fighters had told him that the guerrillas who accosted him “told him that he is a collaborator of Serbia, a spy”.

It is not clear how the testimonies of the sixth and seventh witnesses relate to the indictment because most of the hearings were closed.

Thaci and the other defendants are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed between at least March 1998 and September 1999, during and just after the war in Kosovo with Serbian forces.

They are accused of having individual and command responsibility for crimes that were mainly committed against prisoners held at KLA detention facilities in Kosovo and neighbouring Albania, including 102 murders. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Specialist Chambers are part of Kosovo’s judicial system, but are located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals. The so-called Specialist Court is highly unpopular in Kosovo, where it is seen as unfairly targeting Kosovo Albanian freedom fighters rather than the Serbian perpetrators of the majority of the war crimes committed in 1998-99.

They were set up in 2015 by the Kosovo parliament, acting under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who said Kosovo’s own justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from intimidation. Previous trials at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal were marred by witness-tampering.

Source: Balkan Insight