The first trial against former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leaders began on Wednesday at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.
The first hearing is being held against Salih Mustafa who is accused of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and unlawful murder. He allegedly committed these crimes during April 1999 in a detention center in the village of Zllash, on the outskirts of the Municipality of Prishtina. Mustafa pleaded not guilty of the charges against him.
“So far, nine individuals have been admitted to participate in the proceedings as victims and the application process remains open,” announced the Specialist Chambers.
The trial is scheduled to last through September and October.
Judges have announced that the prosecution will have 87 hours to present its evidence. The prosecution plans to call 16 witnesses, 15 of whom will testify in the courtroom.
In addition to Mustafa, trials are expected against the former President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Kadri Veseli, former members of the General Staff of the KLA, Rexhep Selimi, and former spokesmen of KLA, Jakup Krasniqi.
They are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
All men have been detained in The Hague since November 2020 and have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
According to the indictment, Thaçi, Veseli, Krasniqi and Selimi are suspected of unlawful or arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and lawless murder, imprisonment, and enforced disappearance of persons. According to the Specialist Chambers, these crimes were allegedly committed between March 1998 and September 1999.
The crimes are alleged to have taken place in several places in Kosovo and in northern Albania, particularly in Kukës and Cahan.
The Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office – otherwise known as the Special Court – investigate alleged crimes committed by participants in the Kosovo Liberation Army against ethnic minorities and political rivals between January 1998 and December 2000.
These alleged crimes were included in a report for the Council of Europe prepared by Dick Marty.
The court was established by the Assembly of Kosovo, but operates in The Hague.