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Opposition protesters in Kosovo use flares and tear gas to protest against a war crimes court

By Associated Press
Published: November 29, 2023, 8:24am

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Opposition protesters in Kosovo on Wednesday used flares and tear gas to protest against a senior war crimes court official in the capital.

Opposition leftist Social Democratic Party members tried to enter a hotel in Pristina, where Kosovo Specialist Chambers court President Ekaterina Trendafilova was holding a meeting with members of civil society. The demonstrators used tear gas to cross a police cordon.

“There is no transparency at that court which holds closed trial sessions, that does not show where it has found the evidence,” protester Nol Nushi said. The court is “unfair and that is why we are protesting today.”

Local media reported five arrests among the protesters.

The demonstrators believe that the Kosovo Specialist Chambers court unfairly accuses former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, who fought during the 1998-1999 war against Serbia, of war crimes.

Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, Parliament ex-speaker Kadri Veseli and former lawmaker Rexhep Selimi and some others were all top leaders of the KLA which waged Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence from Serbia and are now on trial at The Hague.

Charges against them include murder, torture and persecution allegedly committed across Kosovo and northern Albania from 1998 to September 1999, during and after the war.

The court in The Hague was set up after a 2011 Council of Europe report that alleged KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners as well as dead Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians.

Most of the 13,000 people who died in the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo were ethnic Albanians. A 78-day campaign of NATO air strikes against Serbian forces ended the fighting. About 1 million ethnic Albanian Kosovars were driven from their homes.

Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s 2008 independence.