The defense team of former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leaders demanded that the accused be released after the Hague-based prosecution team announced they need more time to complete their investigation.
The Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) said that it has set mid-October as the target date for filing its pre-trial brief.
This sparked the defense’s immediate reaction who claims that leaving KLA leaders in custody is a violation of human rights.
“Why are we here if they are not ready? Why are we here if investigations are continuing? There is a fundamental human right due process issue that accused have the right to know why and for what they are being charged[…] they are deprived of their liberty,” lawyer Pierre Richard Prosper said at The Hague on Wednesday.
Prosper, who represents former Kosovo President, Hashim Thaçi, argued that while the prosecution continues their investigation into the “foreseeable future,” the accused should be released from custody.
“This is violating every human right norm that is out there as it relates to fair trials. It is a negative reflection on this institution,” he said.
Ben Emmerson, who acts on behalf of former Parliament Speaker, Kadri Veseli, said that he had already foreseen that this would be the prosecution’s planned timetable, but was criticized by the Tribunal President when he had voiced his prediction.
“I was accused in a private meeting by the President of the Tribunal of giving a falsely prolonged expectation of the trials pre-trial phase in order to increase the chances of achieving provisional release,” Emmerson said.
He even claimed that the Kosovo Specialist Chambers have no jurisdiction to try the charges brought against the KLA leaders.
He explained that based on a decision issued by the Constitutional Court of Serbia, command responsibility, joint criminal enterprise and arbitrary detention were not crimes in Kosovo at the time when the events occurred.
“The Constitutional Court of Serbia has recognized this and has held that people can not be tried for those allegations, because they weren’t crimes at the time. There is no jurisdiction. This court, your court is in the same position. And to come to a conclusion, would be a staggering injustice,” he said.
Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli, former Parliament Speaker Jakup Krasniqi and former MP Rexhep Selimi are indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The four of them were members of the KLA Headquarters holding high leading positions during the war.
The charges against them consist of six counts of crimes against humanity, namely: persecution, imprisonment, other inhumane acts, torture, murder and enforced disappearance of persons. They also stand accused of four counts of war crimes: arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder.
The prosecution describes the accused as members of a “joint criminal enterprise” who shared the common purpose of gaining and exercising control over Kosovo.
All of the accused plead not guilty.