Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and nine other former Kosovo Liberation Army militants have been indicted for war crimes by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in the Hague.
In a statement, prosecutors at the EU-backed Kosovo Specialist Chamber said Thaci et al were “responsible for nearly 100 murders”, including Kosovar Albanians, Serbs and Roma people, with political opponents also targeted – the 10 men also faces charges of torture, persecution, and forced disappearance.
The indictment follows a lengthy investigation, and the court is convinced it can prove all the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. This certainty comes despite Thaci and another suspect, former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli, being accused of trying to "obstruct and undermine" the tribunal's work via a “secret campaign to overturn the law…in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice,'' the statement said.
Thaci played a prominent role in the KLA, which despite being designated a terrorist group by the United Nations in March 1998 was secretly trained and armed by US and UK intelligence services and special forces to assassinate Serbian politicians and policemen in Kosovo, then a Serb province, and harass and intimidate Kosovo Albanians insufficiently enthusiastic about Kosovan independence.
In 2001, James Bissett, former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia and Albania, revealed the purpose of this strategy was explicitly to inflame and escalate tensions in order to create a pretext for Western intervention.
"The hope was that with Kosovo in flames NATO could intervene and in so doing, not only overthrow Milosevic…but more importantly, provide the aging and increasingly irrelevant military organization with a reason for its continued existence," he explained.
This objective was confirmed by none other than Thaci himself in a 2000 BBC documentary, Moral Combat: NATO At War – he said KLA attacks were specifically carried out against Serbian authorities in order to "bring retaliation against civilians".
"The more civilians were killed, the chances of international intervention became bigger, and the KLA of course realised that. There was this foreign diplomat who once told me, 'Look, unless you pass the quota of five thousand deaths you'll never have anybody permanently present in Kosovo from foreign diplomacy'," Dug Gorani, an Albanian Kosovar negotiator unconnected to the KLA, told the same programme.
The prosecutors said the charges were laid in April, and the announcement comes just days before top Serbian and Kosovo officials, including Thaci, were scheduled to meet in Washington for a summit on the future of Kosovo – as of June 2020, 97 out of 193 (50 percent) United Nations member states, including five EU member states, still do not recognise the nation’s independence. Thaci has pulled out of the meeting following the indictment.