On April 3, during their trial’s opening proceedings, Hashim Thaci, the former commander of the paramilitary Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and his three co-defendants pled not guilty before the the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, in the Hague, re-asserting their innocence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo and Albania in 1998 and 1999.
The indictment charges Thaci and his former KLA lieutenants Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi, with crimes against Albanians, Serbs and Roma. All four defendants told lead judge Charles Smith that they “understand the indictment and [are] fully not guilty.”
Thaci (54), Veseli (55), Selimi (52) and Krasniqi (72) have been accused of individual and command responsibility for criminal acts against approximately 407 detainees, committed in 42 illegal KLA detention facilities in Kosovo and Albania between March 1998 and September 1999. It is estimated that at least 98 victims were murdered.
Specifically, the indictment comprises six counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes, including: ethnic and religious persecution, illegal or arbitrary arrest and detention, cruel treatment, enforced disappearance, as well as two counts each of torture and murder.
In Kosovo’s provisional government, formed in March 1999, Thaci held the post of prime minister, Veseli was minister of intelligence, Selimi was minister of interior affairs and Krasniqi acted as spokesman. Arrested in Kosovo on Nov. 4 and 5 of 2020, all four pled not guilty during their preliminary hearings, held between Nov. 9 and 11 that same year.
Ever since their arrests, Thaci and his co-defendants have been housed in the Scheveningen Penitentiary, as the Kosovo Specialist Chambers have repeatedly denied their requests for bail.