Albanian politicians see jailed Kosovo leaders in The Hague

Sep 27, 2022, 11:46 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2022, 12:11 pm

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Three former presidents of Albania and one of Kosovo on Wednesday visited ethnic Albanian former commanders in the fight against Serbian rule in Kosovo who are being held in a Netherlands prison pending trial for alleged war crimes.

Former Kosovo President Behgjet Pacolli said he visited the detainees together with three Albanian former presidents — Rexhep Mejdani, Alfred Moisiu and Bamir Topi — and Pandeli Majko, a former Albanian prime minister and now a lawmaker.

He said they wanted to “show … support and solidarity with their last battle in defense of Kosovo’s war for freedom and independence.”

An EU-backed war crimes court and a linked prosecutor’s office based in The Hague have arrested five ex-Kosovo Liberation Army leaders since 2020, including Kosovo’s ex-president Hashim Thaci, and former parliament speaker Kadri Veseli. They have denied wrongdoing. Only one of the five has gone on trial.

In 2011, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution calling for a European Union mission in Kosovo to investigate “war crimes and organ trafficking” in Kosovo and Albania. It cited allegations that fighters from the now-disbanded KLA trafficked human organs taken from prisoners, slain Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians.

The resolution was based on a 2010 report by Swiss Sen. Dick Marty, a Council of Europe investigator, who said the KLA was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbs during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. The KLA fought Serbia’s forces to try to win independence for Kosovo, then a Serbian province.

In July the Albanian Parliament asked Europe’s top human rights body to rescind the 2011 resolution and clear both Albania and Kosovo of the organ trafficking claims.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last week, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said rescinding the resolution would “help restore the credibility of such an important international organization as the Council of Europe.”

Kosovo’s war left more than 13,000 dead, mostly ethnic Albanians. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.

In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, a move that Belgrade refuses to recognize.

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Albanian politicians see jailed Kosovo leaders in The Hague