From Trenches to Courtroom: Kosovo’s War Leaders Face New Battle

On April 3, the four wartime leaders will be together again, this time before the prosecutors at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague courtroom to hear the charges against them read out in the courtroom as their trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity begins.

Thaci, Veseli, Selimi and Krasniqi, who all became senior politicians after the 1998-99 war ended, are accused of being responsible for committing a series of crimes against hundreds of civilians and non-combatants during the conflict. They all have pleaded not guilty.

Hashim Thaci in Pristina, January 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/VALDRIN XHEMAJ.

Hashim Thaci: presidency cut short by indictment

The past 25 years since he became political director of the KLA have been an eventful time for Hashim Thaci, 55.

Back in 1998, he was keeping in contact with diplomats from a Kosovo village while dodging the pursuit of Serbian police. Several months later, he was on a French military jet from Serbian-controlled Pristina airport on his way to a medieval castle of Rambouillet in France where, to the surprise of many, he led Kosovo's delegation in ultimately unproductive talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's representatives.

When got back to Kosovo, NATO was beginning its air strikes on Yugoslavia aimed at forcing Milosevic to end his campaign of repression, while Thaci was putting together his provisional government for the post-war period, in which he would be prime minister, although it only had limited powers because the UN took control after Milosevic withdrew.

When the war ended in June 1999, Thaci used a NATO helicopter to return to the KLA's main headquarters in the Kosovo village of Berishe and never wore the guerrilla...

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