Dragica Bozanic, 17th witness at the war crimes and crimes against humanity trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three others, testified at the Kosovo Special Chambers in The Hague on Thursday that her husband and son were taken by the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and never seen again.
“I do not wish what I went through to anyone. I lost half of my heart when my 16-year -old son was snatched from my hands… and I will never stop until I discover the truth,” Bozanic, an ethnic Serb originally from Kosovo but not living there since the war, told the court.
According to Bozanic, on July 18, 1998, KLA members attacked her house and there had been gunfire between KLA members and ethnic Serbs from her village of Opterush in Rahovec/Orahovac. Eventually the Serbs had surrendered and the KLA members had sent them to a nearby village.
“Men and women were separated and voices were heard when the men were beaten by KLA members,” Bozanic told the court.
The women and the elderly were then sent to a monastery in a different village from where the men were detained, to be released by the Red Cross the next day.
“I never saw my husband and son again,” said Bozanic, who explained that at the time her other son had not been in the village.
The witness explained that there had been ten ethnic Serb families and 260 Albanian families living together in the same village.
She said her husband, a teacher who had not joined the Serbian army due to health reasons, had an agreement with a person from the village, whose name was kept anonymous for the public, but who had broken the agreement. Bozanovic sais she saw this person with the KLA members the night when they were taken.
Bozanic said another ethnic Serb woman, Slavica Bancic, told her that she had been to the basement, in the village of Peqan, where the men had been detained and had seen Bancic’s husband and son and eight other men from their village.
Another witness testified in court at the Hague from Monday to Wednesday. However, his testimony was mainly in private session.
Thaci and his co-defendants, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi, are accused of having 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 all became senior politicians in Kosovo after the war, allegedly committed the crimes between at least March 1998 and September 1999, during and just after the war with Serbian forces. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up in 2015 by the Kosovo parliament, acting under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who believed that Kosovo’s own justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from intimidation. Previous trials at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal were marred by witness-tampering.
Source : Balkan Insight