Kosovo ex-president on trial for war crimes allowed to visit his sick mother

Former Kosovo president Hashim Thaci, who is on trial in The Hague on 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is in Kosovo to visit his sick mother, the court says

Zenel Zhinipotoku,Llazar Semini
Monday 29 May 2023 16:25 BST
Kosovo War Crimes Thaci
Kosovo War Crimes Thaci (ANP)

Former Kosovo president Hashim Thaci, who is on trial in The Hague on 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, was in Kosovo on Monday to visit his sick mother, the court said.

An email message from the Kosovo Specialist Chambers said that “due to compelling humanitarian grounds, … the Trial Panel has instructed the Registry to manage a custodial visit to Kosovo for Hashim Thaci to meet family."

Thaci remained in detention and in the custody of the Specialist Chambers, with support from the EU's rule-of-law mission EULEX and Kosovo Police, it added.

Local media reported that Thaci, 55, who has been in custody at The Hague, The Netherlands, since November 2020, was in Buroje village, 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of the capital Pristina, at his mother's house.

Thaci is on trial alongside three other former senior leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, guerrilla force in Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence from Serbia.

They are each charged with offenses including murder, torture and persecution allegedly committed across Kosovo and northern Albania from 1998 to September 1999, during and after the war.

The trial is being held at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a branch of the Kosovo legal system that was established in The Hague in part due to fears about witness safety and security.

The court in The Hague and a linked prosecutor’s office were created after a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, that included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners as well as dead Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians. The organ harvesting allegations weren’t included in the indictment against Thaci.

Most of the 13,000 people who died in the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo were ethnic Albanians. A 78-day campaign of NATO air strikes against Serbian forces ended the fighting. About 1 million ethnic Albanian Kosovars were driven from their homes.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's 2008 independence.

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Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

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