Kosovo war crimes court orders restrictions on visits for ex-president Thaci

  • World
  • Tuesday, 05 Dec 2023

FILE PHOTO: Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who resigned and was taken into custody of a war crimes tribunal, appears for the first time before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, Netherlands November 9, 2020. Jerry Lampen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Judges at the Kosovo war crimes tribunal have ordered that prison visitors for former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci are vetted and visits are monitored after prosecutors raised concerns about witness-tampering, a decision published on Monday showed.

In their ruling the judges said that without extra measures to monitor ordinary visitors and conversations, there was a substantial risk that "Mister Thaci may engage in prohibited conduct which could endanger the security of witnesses and/or the integrity of proceedings".

Prosecutors had asked for the court to keep Thaci - and two other former top leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) on trial alongside him - separate from other prisoners and suspend all their communications, outside of privileged talks with their lawyers and some family members. But judges said that was disproportionate.

Thaci and three co-defendants have been on trial since April on 10 charges of persecution, murder, torture and forced disappearance of people during and shortly after the 1998-99 conflict that eventually brought Kosovo independence from Serbia. They deny the charges.

According to prosecutors, Thaci and two co-accused have revealed the identities of protected witnesses to some visitors and in some cases seemingly instructed them to tell potential witnesses what to say when questioned.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers, seated in the Netherlands and staffed by international judges and lawyers, was set up in 2015 to handle cases under Kosovo law against ex-KLA guerrillas.

The court was specifically established outside Kosovo because of worries over witness intimidation.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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