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Kosovo leader faces war crimes indictment

Kosovo's president, Hashim Thaçi, and nine other former separatists were indicted on war crimes charges, three days before talks in the U.S. with Serbia.

Kosovo's president, Hashim Thaçi, and nine other former separatists were indicted on war crimes charges on Wednesday, three days before talks in Washington with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vučić.

The ten-count indictment charges Thaçi and the others with a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture, according to a brief statement from The Hague, Netherlands-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.

It alleges they are "criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders," the statement said. "The crimes alleged in the indictment involve hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents."

U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy to Serbia and Kosovo, Richard Grenell, tweeted that Thaçi cancelled his visit to Washington "until the legal issues of those allegations are settled."

Grenell, who briefly served as Trump's acting director of national intelligence and before that as U.S. ambassador to Germany, organized a White House meeting between Thaçi and Vučić. The talks will proceed, Grenell added, with Kosovo's new prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, representing the country.

Obstruction of justice

The special Kosovo court was created in 2015 to have jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law related to allegations in a Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Report from January 2011.

It noted in the statement that the specialist prosecutor "deemed it necessary to issue this public notice of charges" because Thaçi and Kadri Veseli, a former Kosovo parliament speaker and ex-Kosovo Liberation Army commander also charged in the indictment, repeatedly tried to "obstruct and undermine" the special Kosovo court's work.

The two men "put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo," it added. Thaçi and Veseli previously denied involvement in any war crimes against ethnic Serbs and others during and after Kosovo’s independence war with Serbia from 1998 to 1999.

In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, which does not formally recognize that.

The court noted the indictment is "only an accusation," and a pre-trial judge is now reviewing the indictment to decide whether to confirm the charges.