Kosovo president charged with war crimes over 1990s killings

Albanian negotiators at the Kosovo peace talks, Veton Surroi, left, Ibrahim Rugova, center, and Hashim Thaci sign a draft accord calling for self-rule for Kosovo, Paris, March 18, 1999. (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Kosovo president charged with war crimes over 1990s killings

  • Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC): The indictment alleges that Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli and the other charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders
  • Prosecutors said they decided to make the accusations public because Thaci and Veseli had made “repeated attempts” to obstruct the KSC

THE HAGUE: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has been charged with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the country’s conflict in the 1990s, a tribunal in The Hague said on Wednesday.
Wartime intelligence chief and former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli is also accused of war crimes, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) said, adding that the charges against both men were brought on April 24 but not revealed publicly.
“The indictment alleges that Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli and the other charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders,” the KSC said in a statement.
The accused are also facing other charges such as enforced disappearance of persons, persecution and torture, the tribunal said.
The crimes alleged in the indictment “involved hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents,” it added.
Prosecutors said they decided to make the accusations public because Thaci and Veseli had made “repeated attempts” to obstruct the KSC.
Thaci is currently preparing for a summit at the White House on Saturday with Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, and local media reports suggested he had already left for the US. His officials could not be reached to confirm the report.
The White House meeting was organized by the US special envoy to Serbia and Kosovo Richard Grenell, who has ruffled European feathers by launching a diplomatic process between the two sides parallel to decade-long talks mediated by the EU.
Grenell has denied trying to overshadow the EU-led process, saying his meeting will focus on boosting economic ties.Trump was not expected to attend the meeting.
The EU-backed tribunal was established in 2015 to investigate crimes by independence-seeking ethnic Albanian guerrillas against mainly Serb civilians during the 1998-1999 war.
The conflict pitted Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas seeking independence for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo against Serbia’s forces, who withdrew from the territory after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign.
The tribunal was created after a Council of Europe report tied former guerrilla leaders including Thaci to atrocities.
The court announced in April that it had filed charges against high-ranking Kosovo officials without naming them, but speculation was already rife that the indictment included Thaci.
Asked in April whether he would resign if he was charged, Thaci told local media he was not even thinking about it and would “respond positively” if he was asked to appear at the tribunal.
Kosovo’s outgoing prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned last July after being summoned by the prosecutor for interrogation as a suspect.
Veseli said in November he had been summoned by the court to be questioned.
The KSC opened its doors in The Hague as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was winding down after almost 25 years of prosecuting crimes committed in the Balkans after Yugoslavia’s break-up in the early 1990s.
Haradinaj was acquitted of war crimes by the ICTY in 2012.
Kosovo’s independence war claimed around 13,000 lives, the majority of whom were ethnic Albanians.
The territory unilaterally declared its independence in 2008 with backing from the United States and most of the West.
But Serbia and its allies China and Russia have never accepted the move, and the status of Kosovo remains a major source of tension in the Balkans.


UK PM says schools must open in September

Updated 09 August 2020

UK PM says schools must open in September

  • A study has warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system
  • The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools in September was a social, economic and moral imperative and insisted they would be able to operate safely despite the ongoing threat from the pandemic.
His comments follow a study earlier this month which warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as large as the initial outbreak if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Johnson said restarting schools was a national priority. Schools would be the last places to close in future local lockdowns, he was quoted by another newspaper as telling a meeting on Thursday.
Schools in England closed in March during a national lockdown, except for the children of key workers, and reopened in June for a small number of pupils.
The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September in what Johnson has called a “national priority.”
“Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible,” Johnson wrote.
The economic costs for parents who cannot work if schools are shut are spiralling, and the country faces big problems if children miss out on education, the prime minister warned.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent. But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so,” he wrote.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that he has ordered a public relations campaign to ensure schools open on time and told the meeting last week that they should be the last places to close behind restaurants, pubs and shops.