What is contained in the indictment against Thaci and others (I): Persecuted, tortured, and killed in order to dominate the whole of Kosovo

Source: Kosovo Online

The over 300-page indictment of the Special Court for KLA Crimes accuses former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three other KLA commanders and leaders, Kadri Veseli, Jakup Krasniqi, and Rezhep Selimi of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including illegal detention, torture, murders and disappearances from March 1998 to September 1999.

The 10 counts of the indictment detail the crimes committed in 43 illegal KLA detention centers in Kosovo and Albania against approximately 407 detainees, of whom at least 102 were killed. In the amended indictment, in early March, the prosecutors announced the identity of 75 victims, 51 of whom were of Serbian nationality; 23 Albanians and one person Rom died in KLA custody. The identity of another 27 victims will be disclosed during the trial.

Thaci, Veseli, Selimi, and Krasniqi are accused of persecution on political and ethnic grounds, imprisonment, illegal arrest and detention, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, enforced disappearance, torture (two counts), and murder (two counts).

Those criminal acts are qualified in six counts as crimes against humanity, and in four counts as war crimes. According to the indictment, Thaci and the co-accused bear both individual and command responsibility for those crimes.

Also, according to the indictment, Thaci, Veseli, Selimi, and Krasniqi were participants in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE). The goal of that criminal enterprise, as stated by the Prosecutor's Office, had been to take control of the whole of Kosovo by violence against all whom the KLA considered opponents – the Serbs, Roma people, and Albanians who had been declared "traitors", "spies" and "collaborators" with the Serbian authorities.

The accused were, at the time covered by the indictment, members of the KLA Main Staff: Thaci as political commissar, later commander, Veseli as head of the intelligence service, Selimi as chief operative, and Krasniqi as deputy commander and spokesman.

KLA officers Azem Syla, Lahi Brahimaj, Fatmir Limaj, Sylejman Selimi, Rustem Mustafa, Shukri Buja, Latif Gashi. and Sabit Geci, as well as other KLA members, including zone commanders and deputy commanders.

Crimes in illegal KLA prisons in Likovac, Jablanica, Llapushnik, Volujak, Drenovac, Malishevo, Bajgora, Lapastica, Zlas, in Pristina, Klecka, as well as in Cahan and Kukes in Albania are specifically and individually described.

In the case "Thaci and others", the Prosecution has so far provided more than 300 witnesses.

Kosovo Online will broadcast parts of the indictment in the coming days.

The goal of the joint criminal enterprise is control over Kosovo

As stated in the indictment, "the accompanying material further indicates that the mentioned individuals acted within the framework of a common goal during the period from March 1998 to September 1999 at the latest in order to achieve and enforce control over the whole of Kosovo, among other things, by unlawful intimidation, abuse, violence against those they considered their opponents and with their removal".

"That common goal included the execution of criminal acts of persecution, imprisonment, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, torture, murder, and forced disappearances. Its existence and characteristics are indicated by public statements of the KLA from the early days, before the period to which accusations, press releases, political proclamations, and public statements of the KLA Main Staff, as well as other publications of the KLA from the incriminated period, regulations, structures, instructions and orders drawn up, issued or approved by the suspects, of crimes committed at the mentioned locations and the personal participation of the suspects and other senior officials of the KLA/Provisional Government of Kosovo in the commission of criminal acts," the indictment states.

The Prosecution emphasizes in particular that the evidence indicates that Hashim Thaci contributed significantly to the common goal of the JCE. It is recalled that he is one of the founders of the KLA Main Staff and that from about June 1998; he was also the head of the KLA Directorate for Information and the head of the KLA Directorate for Political Affairs. After the establishment of the Provisional Government of Kosovo, at the end of March 1999, Thaci became the Prime Minister of Kosovo and also served as Commander-in-Chief.

"In that capacity, Thaci directly participated in the formulation, approval, dissemination, and implementation of plans, principles, and practices aimed at achieving a common goal; personally participated or otherwise contributed to the execution of the criminal acts from items 1-10; coordinated or otherwise contributed to efforts to disprove, or otherwise provide incorrect information to international observers and the public about the commission of criminal acts from items 1-10, and otherwise provided information and political, logistical, military or financial support to the participants in the JCE, as well as coordinated and established liaison between them, in order to achieve a common goal," the indictment reads.

The Prosecution also states that, when it comes to Thaci's role "in the development of plans, principles, and practices to achieve a common goal, the supporting material indicates that his authority in the KLA was obvious and that other members of the Main Staff sided with him when making decisions.

Thaci had the authority to appoint persons to key positions in the government, to promote, remove, and issue praises and reprimands, as well as to introduce or cancel disciplinary measures against members of the KLA. In addition, the accompanying material indicates that the decisions of the KLA Main Staff were made unanimously and that its members, including Mr. Thaci, formulated or approved announcements and statements for the public of the KLA. In many of those statements, violence against opponents was continuously and publicly encouraged or approved, the indictment says.

Thaci knew about the liquidations and was at the crime scenes

It is also stated that in June 1998, the Main Staff of the KLA had established the Directorate for Intelligence Affairs, which, among other things, had had the task of discovering persons who cooperated with the Serbs. The General Staff had considered that these persons had deserved punitive measures, including liquidation.

"The accompanying material further indicates that, during 1998-1999, it was common knowledge in Kosovo, and therefore Thaci, that persons accused of collaborating with the Serbs were liquidated," the indictment reads.

When it comes to Thaci's participation and contribution to the criminal acts from the 10 counts of the indictment, the evidence, as stated by the Prosecution, indicated that "he personally participated in those crimes" and that "during the incriminated period he visited several other locations listed in the counts of the indictment".

He is also accused of having personally provided false information on "at least two occasions" in an effort to deny or provide incorrect information regarding criminal acts. The Prosecution also stated that the accompanying material also indicated other cases when Thaci had contributed to the spread of inaccurate or incomplete information about the activities of the KLA.

"Thaci, in his capacity as Prime Minister, had the authority, among other things, to appoint persons to key positions in the government, such as the Minister of Defense (directly subordinate to the Prime Minister), the Chief of Staff of the KLA, the Commander of the National Guard and the Chief of the Intelligence Service (directly subordinate to the Prime Minister). This shows that Thaci had a real opportunity to prevent the commission of criminal acts and punish his subordinates at the time when those acts were committed. Based on the above, it follows that during the incriminated period there was a superior-subordinate relationship between Thaci and members of the KLA at the locations covered by the revised indictment. With regard to the committed criminal acts, the judge for the preliminary proceedings refers to the conclusions he presented regarding the criminal acts from items 1-10 committed by persons subordinate to Thaci".

And not only did he know about the crimes, the indictment accuses Thaci that "he was present at several locations where the alleged crimes were committed."

"He was also a witness when KLA members abused victims in the field. Thaci also had knowledge based on information from other sources. For example, as a member of the KLA Main Staff and Supreme Commander, Thaci met with commanders of operational zones in the field. Reports were also sent to the KLA Main Staff, including Thaci, and regular contact was maintained with zone commanders. Based on the accompanying material, during the entire incriminated period, Thaci also had several meetings with representatives of the international community where he was explicitly warned of the crimes committed or were carried out by members of the KLA," the indictment states.

Moreover, the Prosecution claims based on the collected evidence, Thaci and other members of the KLA in leadership positions, specifically members of the Main Staff, had access to means of communication, such as couriers, walkie-talkies, and satellite phones, thanks to which those members of the KLA in the operational zones were in daily contact.

"All of the above took place during the incriminated period, in a situation in which it was common knowledge that members of the KLA committed abuses against civilians, including kidnappings, imprisonments, beatings, and murders. It follows that Thaci knew or had grounds to know that his subordinates intended to commit criminal acts or have already committed them," the indictment says.

Not only did Thaci "not take the necessary and reasonable measures that he was obliged to take as a superior to prevent the commission of criminal acts and punish the perpetrators", but on the contrary, according to the indictment, "he occasionally approved the actions of his subordinates by his presence on the spot and by not taking measures when he was an eyewitness to the abuse of victims by members of the KLA".

The Prosecution concludes that during the period covered by the indictment, Thaci and the other defendants caused the death of persons in Kosovo and northern Albania, including arrests or kidnappings, in places of detention or in connection with them, by their acts and omissions. This includes murders committed during and death as a result of cruel and inhumane treatment in places of detention.

Thirty-seven Serbs were killed in Malisheva

According to the indictment, particularly terrible crimes had been committed in the territory of Klina, in Malisheva and its surroundings. At least 37 Serbs had been killed there from July 16 to 27, 1998.

In just two days on July 26 or 27, 1998, 25 of them were liquidated. Among them were as many as 13 members of the Kostic family - Dimitrije, Lazar, Todor, Miroljub, Vekoslav, Vitomir, Sasko, Zivko, Miodrag, Svetislav, Srecko, Mladen and Nebojsa. Rajko and Cvetko Nikolic also died there, as well as Krsta Stanojevic. The bodies of nine more murdered Serbs were thrown into the Volujak pit - Spasa Baznic, Bozidar, Mladen, Nemanja and Novica Bozanic, Miodrag, Spasoje, and Predrag Burzic, and Srecko Simic.

"The judge for the preliminary proceedings notes that the accompanying material indicates that members of the KLA killed nine men, Serbs from Opterushe, 15 men, Serbs from Retimlje, in a cave in Malisheva and its surroundings, approximately on July 26 or 27, 1998 Volujak, Klina municipality. On the evening of July 18 or 19, 1998, members of the KLA took out, in separate groups, Serbian prisoners, they took each group separately in a truck. The prisoners were taken to a forest, where masked members of the KLA killed them,” the indictment states.

It is added that on the remains that had been found, it had been established that some had died from a blow with a blunt object and others from gunshot wounds.

The indictment also mentions the events that preceded the murder of the Serbs.

"On July 18, 1998, KLA units attacked the villages of Opterushe, Retimlje, and Zaqishte. The Serbian population of those villages surrendered to the KLA. Members of the KLA took them away and beat them. The KLA kept those men imprisoned in Drenovac, and then transferred them to Malisheva," the indictment says.

It is also stated that Srecko and Srdjan Vitosevic, Aleksandar Stanojevic, Dusko Patrnogic, Tomislav, Djurdje and Sasa Baljosevic, Dusko Djinovic, Cedo Cabarkapa, Dusko Dolasevic, Radovan and Branislav Staletic had been killed in Malisheva on July 18 and 19, 1998.

Krasniqi in the police station where the detainees were

"It was identified that Jakup Krasniqi had been present at the scene at the end of July 1998 and that he had once visited the room where the detainees had been kept. Certain members of the KLA detained at least 48 people in the former police station in Malisheva in different periods of time and without legal proceedings until 26 or 27 July 1998. Detainees were kept in locked cells and under guard. Between 17 July 1998 and 26 or 27 July 1998, detainees in the former police station in Malisheva were kept in overcrowded rooms,m with little ventilation, and were provided with inadequate food, water, medical care, and bedding. Several members of the KLA routinely subjected detainees to severe beatings and psychological abuse. Detainees were beaten with rifle butts and other weapons, kicked, and otherwise threatened with death and physical violence. They could see and hear severe abuse of other detainees. Among the prisoners were supporters of the LDK and persons of Serbian and Roma nationality," the indictment states.

It is also stated that the arrest and imprisonment of those persons had not been justified by criminal prosecution or by a well-founded suspicion that it was absolutely necessary to deprive them of their freedom for security reasons. They had been imprisoned on unspecified charges of espionage or because they had been of Serbian ethnicity.

"Thirteen prisoners were kept in a room measuring 16 square meters, in which there were only small openings in the window. Members of the KLA regularly abused the arrested and imprisoned persons, both mentally and physically. The members of the KLA threatened the prisoners that they would be tortured even more," the indictment says about the events in Malisheva.

It is further stated that around July 19, 1998, 13 detainees had been taken out in groups.

"The detainees were placed in a van and driven to a nearby location where individual members of the KLA shot and killed them. One detainee escaped. The bodies of the other 12 men were exhumed from a mass grave in Malisheva in 2005. Despite widespread publicity and repeated requests, family members were denied information about the fate of those who were detained in Malisheva," the indictment states.

Tomorow: Thaci, Selimi, and Veseli personally participated in the torture