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Monday, February 26, 2024
Feb. 26, 2024

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Judges reject call for near ban on Hague prison visits for 3 Kosovo Liberation Army fighters


PRISTINA, Kosovo — International judges on Monday rejected a demand by prosecutors for a nearly complete ban on prison visits for three former Kosovo Liberation Army leaders on trial at The Hague for war crimes.

Kosovo ex-President Hashim Thaci, former parliamentary Speaker Kadri Veseli and ex-lawmaker Rexhep Selimi face charges including murder, torture and persecution during and after the 1998-’99 war with Serbia.

The three defendants have been in custody since November 2020. Prosecutors called on the judges to limit their prison visits to only their lawyers or close relatives, saying that the three were attempting to tamper with witnesses and leak confidential testimony.

But a panel of judges of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers headed by Charles L. Smith III said that the request by prosecutors wasn’t “proportional” and would have “a severe eroding effect upon the rights of the three accused.”

“At this stage, the panel is therefore not convinced that measures of segregation would be necessary and/or proportionate based on the information presently before the panel,” the verdict said.

Prosecutors from the Kosovo Specialist Chambers — a branch of the Kosovo legal system set up at The Hague, Netherlands, in part because of fears about witness safety — said that they had found that individuals visiting the three defendants had later approached protected witnesses “to compel these witnesses to withdraw or modify their testimony in a manner favorable to the three accused.”