- Thaci, Veseli and others accused of war crimes by Specialist Prosecutor (media)
- Thaci cancels trip to Washington amid filing of war crimes charges (media)
- Hoti cancels Washington trip (media)
- Veseli calls indictment against him ‘political’ and ‘groundless’ (media)
- Hoti: No one can be considered guilty without final decision of the court (media)
- Osmani calls for maturity and unity (media)
- Kurti: Indictment, new consequence of older mistakes (media)
- Mustafa: Hoti to decide himself if he will go to Washington (media)
- Haziri: There will be no White House meeting (Syri TV/Telegrafi)
- Collaku: Disgusting to try freedom fighters in the name of justice (media)
- Limaj: KLA fighters being politically persecuted (media)
- Konjufca: Dialogue to stop until Specialist Chamber completes its work (Koha)
- Ahmeti: Events ahead of White House meeting have no good intentions (media)
- EU does not comment on indictment against Thaci and Veseli (Koha)
- State Department: Indictment, step forward in justice and reconciliation process (VOA)
- Former SITP prosecutor comments on indictment against Thaci (media)
- Rama on indictment: Cannot find words to express indignation (RTK)
- Op-ed: A planned Kosovo-Serbia meeting at the White House is falling apart. It was always a bad idea. (WaPo)
- Weber: Specialist Prosecutor feared Thaci plans to negotiate amnesty (RFE)
- Serwer: Kosovo is in trouble (net/Koha)
- Op-ed: Anatomy of a Kosovo Summit Catastrophe (Foreign Policy)
- 95 new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours (media)
Kosovo Media Highlights
Thaci, Veseli and others accused of war crimes by Specialist Prosecutor (media)
The Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) announced in a press release that it filed an indictment against President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli with a number of crimes a against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.
The indictment, filed on 24 April 2020 alleges that Thaci, Veseli and others are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders. “The crimes alleged in the Indictment involve hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents.”
The press release explains that the Indictment is only an accusation at this stage and that a Pre-Trial Judge is currently reviewing the Indictment to decide on whether to confirm the charges.
“The Specialist Prosecutor has deemed it necessary to issue this public notice of charges because of repeated efforts by Hashim THAÇI and Kadri VESELI to obstruct and undermine the work of the KSC. Mr THAÇI and Mr VESELI are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice. By taking these actions, Mr THAÇI and Mr VESELI have put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo,” the SPO statement reads.
Thaci cancels trip to Washington amid filing of war crimes charges (media)
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci announced he was cancelling his upcoming trip to Washington following the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office filing war crimes charges against him.
“The President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, after the announcement made public by the Office of the Specialized Prosecutor regarding the initiation of the indictment, has interrupted the official trip to the United States of America, where he was invited to participate in the dialogue process between Kosovo and Serbia,” a statement issued by the Kosovo president’s office said.
U.S. presidential envoy for Kosovo-Serbia negotiations, Richard Grenell, tweeted in response: “The President of Kosovo has just informed us that he has canceled his trip to Washington, D.C. following the announcement made by the Special Prosecutors Office. I respect his decision not to attend the discussions until the legal issues of those allegations are settled.”
Grenell added: “We look forward to Saturday’s discussions which will be led by President Vucic and Prime Minister Hoti.”
Hoti cancels Washington trip (media)
Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti has cancelled his participation at the June 27 meeting at the White House following an indictment being filed against President Hashim Thaci.
“Due to recent developments in Pristina as a result of accusations filed by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, I have to return to Pristina to deal with the situation,” Hoti wrote on social media.
“I informed Ambassador Grenell that I will not be taking part in the meeting of 27 June at the White House,” Hoti said.
Veseli calls indictment against him ‘political’ and ‘groundless’ (media)
Leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli has responded to indictment against him filed by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague calling it ‘groundless’ and politically motivated.
Veseli said at a press conference that the statement issued yesterday by the Specialist Prosecutor before the indictment has actually been confirmed by a judge alleging that he along with President Hashim Thaci, also accused, were trying to obstruct the work of the Specialist Chambers “are completely untrue and groundless.”
Veseli said that the timing of the indictment being announced is cause for suspicion. “Considering the time and the circumstances, few days ahead of the White House meeting, doubts over that this being a coincidence have rightfully been raised. No prosecutor, ever, would have to allow their decisions be guided by political motives. With this approach, the Prosecutor has signaled at the path he plans to pursue to exercise all his power. He is warning the people of Kosovo that this process cannot be reliable to serve impartial justice, uninfluenced by political circumstances. He is trying through contradictory statements to cover the true motives which seem to be political,” Veseli said adding that no one can tarnish the Kosovo Liberation Army and its fight.
In a Facebook post, Veseli also said: “I have been in KLA from the first day and will continue to serve my nation to the end. Serbia has committed crimes and not Albanians. If need be, we will once again defend with facts the righteous liberation war against baseless accusations.”
Hoti: No one can be considered guilty without final decision of the court (media)
The Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti said the government of Kosovo considers that no one can be assessed as guilty without the final verdict of the court and invites all citizens to demonstrate calmness.
The government believes that the war of the Kosovo population and the Kosovo Liberation Army was just and liberating and as such, it will remain one of the most important periods of the history of the country.”
Osmani calls for maturity and unity (media)
Kosovo’s Assembly Speaker Vjosa Osmani, has reacted to the initiation of the indictment of the President Hashim Thaci and PDK leader Kadri Veseli, calling for maturity, unity, cooperation and wisdom, adding that Kosovo needs protection of dignity, integrity and image of the state.
“Justice should commence its duty independently and without pressure.
Serbia has not yet responded for the horrific crimes against innocent civilians in Kosovo. Serbia is a genocidal state. AN we should say this today and every day, in Kosovo, the U.S., Europe, everywhere in the world,” Osmani wrote.
Kurti: Indictment, new consequence of older mistakes (media)
Vetevendosje Movement leader, Albin Kurti, said that the indictment against Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli is a result of what he said were mistakes made by lawmakers five years ago when they voted in favour of constitutional changes establishing the Specialist Chambers.
He said that the indictment weakens Kosovo’s image in the international arena and that the upcoming meeting in Washington would not be useful in the light of the recent events.
Asked by reporters in front of his party’s headquarters whether he believed Thaci was innocent, Kurti replied: “I believe in KLA’s innocence and I think Kosovo should have had its own independent and impartial judiciary a long time ago to investigate, try and convict all crimes of war and of peace and above all those committed by Serbia in Kosovo,” Kurti said.
Mustafa: Hoti to decide himself if he will go to Washington (media)
Isa Mustafa, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo said that it belongs to Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti to asses if he wants to continue with the meeting with Serbia in Washington without the presence of the President Hashim Thaci, who cancelled his meeting after his indictment by the Office of the Specialist Prosecution was made public.
“The Prime Minister will assess himself. We have the new situation, and the assessment should be made in consultation and relation with the partners. He will meet tomorrow representatives of the EU and European Council. I do not know about Washington because we have completely new circumstances,” Mustafa said.
“To us, the information is not clear as it did not derive from the sources or statements of the officials of the Specialist Chambers, and we do not want to comment. What I can say is that to LDK, the KLA war was just, its fighters fought to defend the citizens and Kosovo, against Serbia’s organized genocide and terror. Anything related to the definition of terror, crime should be directed at Serbia. We fully support the Specialist Chambers to work independently, but we must assess the KLA war as we feel it,” Mustafa said.
Haziri: There will be no White House meeting (Syri TV/Telegrafi)
Deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) Lutfi Haziri said Kosovo will not be having a delegation represent it at the White House meeting on June 27 noting that the meeting will not take place without President Hashim Thaci.
“There will be no meeting,” Haziri told Syri TV. “Kosovo’s White House delegation is not complete. Political maturity and internal dialogue is required to find the best way forward for the people of Kosovo,” he said.
Collaku: Disgusting to try freedom fighters in the name of justice (media)
Bekim Collaku, chief of staff to President Hashim Thaci, commented on social media the indictment made by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office saying that the just war for freedom can never be put at the same footing as the occupation war of Serbia.
“There is nothing more sickening and disgusting that when allegedly in the name of justice, freedom fighters are tarnished, accused, tried and even convicted,” Collaku wrote.
He said that the price for Kosovo’s independence and freedom is very high “therefore efforts to destroy and rewrite history are destined to fail.”
Limaj: KLA fighters being politically persecuted (media)
Leader of the Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA) Fatmir Limaj said that the indictment against former KLA figures, Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli, has nothing to do with justice just as the whole process regarding the formation of Specialist Chambers.
“The way this office announced an unconfirmed accusation shows clearly that we are dealing here with political persecution of KLA fighters,” Limaj wrote on social media. “A Kosovo Liberation Army soldier has never evaded facing justice any time they were called on and will encounter any judicial process,” Limaj noted.
Konjufca: Dialogue to stop until Specialist Chamber completes its work (Koha)
Glauk Konjufca, deputy leader of the Vetevendosje Movement, said the dialogue with Serbia should stop until the Specialist Chambers completes its work.
“After the filing of the indictment by the Specialist Prosecution in Hague, I think that now the dialogue with Serbia should be completely suspended. Because now, whatever happens, it would be good that President Thaci does not deal at all with the dialogue with Serbia. Ve are at a quite serious point with Serbia now, where Vucic thinks that he can lift reciprocity and everything. And, what he has deposited as evidence at the Specialist Chambers made KLA a target. It is another situation now and dialogue with Serbia should be suspended,” Konjufca said.
We have explained it to our U.S. friends why it is not good to establish the Specialist Chambers. Can you raise the case of Meja massacre, or those of 364 other massacres in Kosovo there? You cannot apply there as this Court is only for KLA,” Konjufca said.
“Dialogue with Serbia should stop until the Specialist Chambers completes its work. Specialist Chambers and criminal KLA on one hand, and on the other Vucic acting as some kind of commander, is a very bad position for Kosovo,” he added.
Ahmeti: Events ahead of White House meeting have no good intentions (media)
Pristina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti reacted to the indictment announced by the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli saying that he remains strong supporter of the need to solve all war crimes and for every victim and family that lost someone, regardless of nationality, to have the possibility to feel the taste of freedom.
At the same time, said Ahmeti, “as a citizen of this country, I have experienced in my own skin and that of my family as well as all other families in Kosovo that the state of Serbia has carried out ethnic persecutions, oppression and aggression rarely seen or experienced in Europe.” He said that this is why he was against the establishment of a special court that would try only Albanians. “I wanted our country to investigate all crimes. Any person that has committed a crime as an Albanian has not done so in my name and will never speak in my name even though I deeply believe that KLA as an organisation had no intention and means to commit crimes in an organised manner.”
Ahmeti said that he disagrees on many things with Veseli and Thaci “but I would never agree for their removal from the political scene to be by all means.”
He said that the timing of the indictment, two days before an important process at the White House, “an indictment that KLA leaders killed over 100 persons echoes throughout the world, cannot be coincidental or have good intentions.”
EU does not comment on indictment against Thaci and Veseli (Koha)
Koha reached out to the European Union officials for a comment on the recent filing of indictment against President Hashim Thaci and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli but spokesperson Peter Stano said the EU does not comment on the procedures of the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.
“All questions related to their work and procedures should be addressed to them,” Stano said. He added that the EU strongly support the work of the Specialist Chambers and that it is extremely important for it to be able to continue its work independently and free of external interference.
State Department: Indictment, step forward in justice and reconciliation process (VOA)
A U.S. State Department official said Wednesday’s announcement of the indictments was “20 years in the making” and “a step forward in the justice and reconciliation process in the Western Balkans … essential to advance the rule of law and justice for victims in Kosovo, as well as to move the country beyond this terrible period and join the Euro-Atlantic community.”
Former SITP prosecutor comments on indictment against Thaci (media)
Former lead prosecutor of the Special Investigative Task Force Clint Williamson commented on the indictment against Hashim Thaci and Kadri Veseli saying it was a significant development in an investigation that was initiated in 2011.
“At the conclusion of my tenure as Prosecutor in 2014 I announced our preliminary investigative findings and closed by stating the following:
Some, in order to protect themselves, have tried to portray this investigation as an attack on Kosovo’s fight for freedom or on the KLA as an organization. Many Kosovars joined the KLA with the best of intentions and they rejected the rampant criminality that transpired after the war. Some of them have shown great courage and integrity by coming forward as witnesses and telling what they know about those who took a different path – those in leadership positions who embraced criminality and wanted to use the KLA to further their own personal objectives. So, it should be clear that this investigation and any charges that result from it, are directed at the criminal actions of individuals within distinct groups, not at the KLA as a whole.
Nor, is this an attempt to re-write history, as some have tried to present it. I was in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 and I supervised the subsequent investigation by the ICTY of Serb-perpetrated crimes during that period, co-authoring the initial indictment against Slobodan Milošević and others for the crimes directed against Kosovo Albanian victims. I had a leading role in the exhumations of mass graves that occurred in the summer of 1999, where the bodies of thousands of Kosovo Albanian victims were recovered. I went to numerous crime scenes throughout Kosovo and I spent many hours speaking with victims and with family members of those missing or killed. So, from my own very direct involvement, I understand clearly what happened in Kosovo in the years leading up to the war in 1999 and in the war itself.
Read more at: https://bit.ly/2Z65u0S
Rama on indictment: Cannot find words to express indignation (RTK)
The Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama reacted after the indictment of the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Kadri Veseli.
Ever since I received the news on the list of the Special Tribunal and read the names of the alleged criminals of the Kosovo Liberation Army, I am trying but cannot manage to formulate right sentences that would express my indignation.
I will make a public statement tomorrow with a message for all Albanians, but I am and will be until the end by all those who fought with arms to unchain Kosovo imprisoned in Slobodan Milosevic’s hell, by closing an unjust history in the heart of Europe with blood, honor and glory.
Long Live Kosovo, and today more than ever, respect for the leaders of the liberation war,” Rama wrote.
Op-ed: A planned Kosovo-Serbia meeting at the White House is falling apart. It was always a bad idea. (WaPo)
Nicholas Burns, former U.S. under secretary of state, and Frank Wisner, former special representative for Kosovo, authored a joint opinion piece published in Washington Post saying that President Trump’s plan to invite Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci and Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic to meet at the White House on June 27 may be falling apart before it begins, after the Kosovo Specialist Chambers announced on Wednesday indictments against Thaci and others on war crimes charges.
“Trump’s team is arguing that an infusion of international private investment will provide a foundation for an eventual settlement. This is a big bet by an administration that has shown little interest in Europe, yet alone the Balkans, during the past 3½ years. There are several potential problems with Trump’s plan, and the indictment against Thaci should provide the administration an additional reason to reconsider its approach to the negotiations,” they write.
Burns and Wisner say Trump is conducting a ‘solo campaign’ in Kosovo and not cooperating with the EU and that for the first time in two decades, the United State and the EU are involved in separate and conflicting campaigns. “This threatens to slow, rather than advance, ultimate progress toward an agreement.”
They argue that the EU has a stronger case than the U.S. to be leading diplomatically in the Balkans. “By muscling the E.U. out of way, Trump’s diplomatic gambit divides the region’s friends and actually decreases the probability of a successful outcome. It is hard not to suspect that one of Trump’s motives is spite, given his open and shameful contempt for German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as his proclivity, unique among modern U.S. presidents, to refuse to work closely with the European allies on nearly any issue of consequence.”
At the same time, the authors point out, many in the Balkans doubt that Trump and his team have done the necessary preparations to produce more that a ‘photo op’ at the White House. “We suspect Trump’s real motive is to produce a high-profile but short-lived agreement to strengthen his thin foreign policy accomplishments before the Nov. 3 election. There’s fear Trump might ultimately push Kosovo to make territorial concessions to Serbia that would be a potentially incendiary precedent in the unstable Balkan region.”
Burns and Wisner warn that attempts at redrawing borders is a dangerous precedent that could also reflect in relations between Noth Macedonia and Greece and also in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“There are no “quick fixes” in the Balkans for a president notoriously fixated on that brand of diplomacy. Trump should adjust his course, lower his ambitions and lay the groundwork for a careful, patient American strategy before he commits additional damage to the fragile Balkans and our already weakened credibility in Europe,” they conclude.
Read more: https://wapo.st/3evIwGM
Weber: Specialist Prosecutor feared Thaci plans to negotiate amnesty (RFE)
Bodo Weber, senior associate with the Berlin-based Democratization Policy Council, commented on the announcement of the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office that President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci and former Assembly Speaker Kadri Veseli are accused of war crimes saying that Thaci’s efforts to achieve a land swap agreement with Serbia were the best indicator that he was going to be indicted.
Weber said he believed the decision of the Specialist Prosecutor to make the indictment public, days ahead of the Washington meeting between Kosovo and Serbia, is intentional.
“This also seems to confirm backstage information that from the start of negotiations he [Thaci] was interviewed by representatives of the prosecution on several occasions for which, unlike other politicians in Kosovo, he never informed the public. Nevertheless, the unusual publication of the information about the indictment before confirmation by the court suggests this is linked to the Saturday’s round of talks at the White House and the prosecutor’s fear that president Thaci tries to negotiate some type of amnesty,” Weber said.
He added that he would not be surprised if the Kosovo side cancelled participation in dialogue with Serbia meetings in light of the recent developments.
Serwer: Kosovo is in trouble (Peacefare.net/Koha)
Balkans analyst Daniel Serwer said he was surprised by the indictment being filed against Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli and others by the Specialist Prosecutor in The Hague for several reasons, the first being that he didn’t think there was sufficient evidence to bring charges and second, because it comes days before Kosovo and Serbia delegations are set to meet in Washington for talks sponsored by the Trump administration.
Serwer notes that in principle, the talks could proceed anyway, even if Thaci does not travel to the U.S. “It may test whether the Prime Minister can exercise independent authority, but it will necessarily put him at considerable political risk. If he appears in Washington, he will be criticized at home and at an enormous disadvantage diplomatically,” we writes in his blog.
“It is also a test of Thaci and Veseli. If confirmed by a KSC judge, they should both resign their positions and go to The Hague to defend themselves, as former Prime Minister Haradinaj has done several times. Their resignations would make big waves in Kosovo politics. The Assembly would need to replace Thaci, which would be a big challenge in the aftermath of the indictment. Replacing the head of a political party would be far less controversial, but still consequential. Would the PDK (Democratic Party of Kosovo) respect its Kosovo Liberation Army heritage, or move beyond it to choose someone less connected to the armed rebellion against Serbia?”
In case Thaci and Veseli do not resign, Kosovo will face other challenges, warns Serwer. “Neither Europe nor America will be interested in meeting with or helping politicians under indictment. The result will be international isolation. The political response inside Kosovo will be defiance. It is hard to picture anything positive coming of that kind of confrontation.”
“Belgrade of course will be pleased with the indictment, both because it has sought justice for crimes against Serbs in the aftermath of the war and because it will give Serbia a leg up in any negotiations with Europe and the US. Belgrade may try to reopen the question of territorial compromise with Kosovo, claiming that the indictment proves Serbs should not be expected to live in a country dominated by criminal enemies.”
Serwer concludes that the indictment is not only a personal question for Thaci and Veseli but an institutional and international matter. “Kosovo is in trouble,” he remarks.
Op-ed: Anatomy of a Kosovo Summit Catastrophe (Foreign Policy)
Edward Joseph, who teaches at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and served for a dozen years in the Balkans, writes in an opinion piece for Foreign Policy that as the Trump administration prepares to host Balkans leaders this week to culminate a peace process, the ‘bombshell’ announcement that Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci has been indicted for war crimes has “kicked the legs out from under the administration’s strategy, spoiling its machinations in Kosovo’s politics, and setting up Saturday’s meeting to be a fiasco.”
Joseph says that the special envoy Richard Grenell has skewed the negotiating dynamics in favor of the intransigent side, Belgrade. “In his announcement of this week’s White House parley, Grenell moved the goal posts in Serbia’s favor. Beyond lifting tariffs, Kosovo had to agree to suspend its effort to join international organizations. This was the main reason the administration wanted Kurti, who has fought for equity in the negotiations with Serbia, removed. The concession was also a serious negotiating blunder. The Kosovo delegation has surrendered the one point of pressure that it had on Belgrade, which was forced to expend considerable diplomatic energy to keep Kosovo out of organizations like Interpol. This gives Serbia one more reason to sit on its hands. And Kosovo has gained nothing in return for this concession, not even stepped-up U.S. political support.”
Joseph argues further that Washington’s insistence on initially mediating by itself defies the record of success while the expectation that the EU will later take the lead on resolving outstanding political issues defies common sense.
Furthermore, he notes, even assuming that the Grenell theory of the case is correct—that economic normalization will lead to political breakthrough—the US special envoy has only made it harder to realize his vision, particularly for a free trade zone. “Instead of partnering on this worthy endeavor, Grenell has gone out of his way to alienate the Europeans, including Europe’s biggest economic actor, Germany,” he writes.
At the same time, “Grenell ignores the severe impact of corruption and weak rule of law on Balkan economies” and “even assuming that the United States overcomes all of these obstacles and manages, alone or with EU assistance, to catalyze development and trade between Serbia and Kosovo, that will still not alter their fundamental power and size imbalance.”
Finally, “there are few examples from the region of economic interest driving political agreement. For example, Greece has long been a top investor in North Macedonia, and yet for almost three decades Athens acted against its financial interest, keeping its weaker northern neighbor out of NATO and the EU, just as Serbia isolates Kosovo.”
Read more: https://bit.ly/2Z4ujKs
95 new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours (media)
Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health presented the new cases of coronavirus confirmed in Kosovo over the last 24 hours saying that of 311 tests, 95 have tested positive.
At the same time, the Institute announced that 63 recoveries were recorded over the same period.
There are currently 1,155 active Covid-19 cases in Kosovo.