The contradiction in the accusation against the four ex-KLA leaders

3 Prill 2023, 23:35Op-Ed Mero Baze

There is a contradiction in the way the Special Court has formulated its indictment against four leaders of the former Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), the organization that led the armed resistance of Albanians in Kosova during 1998-1999.

According to the indictment, the KLA leaders are accused of war crimes, specifically for participating in a “joint criminal enterprise,” whereas during the trial the prosecutor emphasized that they are being accused for individual activities against those whom they deemed as Serb collaborators in Kosovo. The claim that KLA was a joint criminal enterprise is a clear punishment for the armed resistance movement and its legacy, despite the lack of facts that could prove any potential criminal activity.

There is no specific date when Kosova’s Liberation Army was formed. No one so far can recall a date when the four indicted leaders might have met to form KLA and this is because such a meeting never happened. More than an organization, KLA was a project to resist the Serbian terror following the failure of Dayton negotiations for a peaceful solution. The four ex-KLA leaders were political activists in a leftist political organization (LPK), which supported the idea of an armed resistance and when it finally began, they were known to the public, but they did not represent a military authority.

KLA was a decentralized movement that was born and grew in strength in every village, house and region where Serb authorities committed atrocities. KLA was an acronym through which Albanians believed and hoped they would be able to revenge against the Serbian crimes. The only official organization that was prepared in case of war, were Kosova’s Armed Forces, financed by the government in exile and made up of former Albanian officers from the Yugoslavian army. However, they too joined the KLA, since it was an organization that did not have a central headquarters.

Most of KLA’s regional headquarters were financed by Bujar Bukoshi’s government, even though he was often at odds with the KLA and there was never an agreement to join forces due to political divisions. Hence, Hashim Thaci’s, Kadri Veseli’s and Jakup Krasniqi’s prominence was because of their political authority and not due to any military authority.

Back then there were several international projects that sought to place the KLA under political control. At first, the United States tried to convince them to submit to the orders of President Ibrahim Rugova, but failed. Later, in the summer of 1998, Christopher Hill, the current US Ambassador to Belgrade tried to form a new government in Kosova, which would include all political factions. He went so far as to propose Mehmet Hajrizi for Prime Minister, hoping that he would be accepted by the KLA, even though the plan failed. Then Adem Demaci was announced as KLA’s political leader with headquarters in Prishtina. His authority however dropped in February 1999 following a press conference where he and Albin Kurti (Demaci’s secretary at the time), opposed Kosova’s delegation in the Rambouillet Conference, claiming that it was treason against the country. Despite this, the delegation still participated in the conference, proving that Demaci too was a false representative of the KLA.

The only individuals that the KLA accepted as its political leaders were the ones that are currently being trialled in Hague. While they gained support and popularity during the war, they did not have the authority to dictate the strategy of the armed resistance. KLA’s headquarters were decentralized and the movement itself was decentralized, supported by all political factions as well as private funds and then by NATO and the US. Therefore, the claim that the KLA was a joint criminal enterprise lacks evidence, since its members were not participating in a joint organization, but rather were trying to resist to the Serbian ethnic terror.

On the other hand, the prosecution accuses the KLA as being a joint criminal enterprise, while claiming also that there are individual accusations for the four indicted leaders. Such accusations can be investigated and trialled in court. However, this would be quite different from accusing them of participating in a joint criminal enterprise. It is rather illogical to claim that the individual accusations against the former KLA leaders consist in an accusation against the KLA. This claim should be dropped at least in paragraph 35 of the indictment.

Personal accusations on the other hand can be easily investigated, especially when considering that their genesis was false claim of organ trafficking in a remote village in Northern Albania where the isolation is so bad, that there is not even drinking water. However, the prosecution cannot claim that the KLA is not being accused, while at the same time claiming that its leaders participated in a joint criminal enterprise. This is what brought people out in the streets to protest and instead of the expected peace and order, this kind of justice risks to spark new problems.

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