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Kosovo’s Thaci Gives First Interview from Detention in The Hague

In an unexpectedly personal interview conducted in writing from the detention centre at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers war crimes court in The Hague, Hashim Thaci told Kosovo media outlet Nacionale that he is missing “people, not politics” – particularly his family.

“We miss each other every day, but that’s the price of freedom,” the former Kosovo president and wartime Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla leader said in the interview that was published on Monday evening.

“I know that longing is somewhat of a weakness, but it is also a very basic human emotion: we are human beings,” he added.

Thaci did not discuss the charges against him during the interview, or the ongoing trial process that started in April this year, focusing instead on his views about Kosovo’s future.

“United, we succeeded in the process of freedom and independence, and we must continue in the same way in the phase of Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said.

“Permanent peace with Serbia must be achieved, with mutual recognition, a legally binding agreement. The more this agreement is delayed, the more delayed Kosovo will be in NATO and the EU, and the weaker the support of the USA will be,” he also argued.

Thaci has been in detention in The Hague since November 2020, when he stepped down as president after war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against him were confirmed by a pre-trial judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

He and his co-defendants, Kadri Veseli, Jakup Krasniqi, and Rexhep Selimi, all former guerrilla leaders turned politicians, are accused of bearing individual and command responsibility for crimes that were mainly committed against prisoners held at KLA detention facilities in Kosovo and neighbouring Albania, including 102 murders.

The defendants, who have all pleaded not guilty, allegedly committed the crimes between at least March 1998 and September 1999, during and just after the war with Serbian forces.

Thaci has been allowed to visit his family twice since he has been in detention, on May 29, 2023, and September 2, 2023.

“My visit home some months ago, on May 29, 2023, which lasted only few hours and was carried out under the protection and accompaniment of detention authorities, in our hometown in Brojë, the conversation with my parents, for several hours, represented an extraordinary little miracle for me,” he told Nacionale, describing the conversation as “the most special in my life”.

“I miss people, not politics,” he emphasised.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up to try crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.

They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who feared that Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from interference.

The so-called ‘special court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.

Thaci himself was one of the main supporters of the court’s establishment, arguing that it would show that the KLA’s war was righteous.

Source : BalkanInsight