News 04 Nov 16

Kosovo to Take Missing Persons Issue to Brussels

At his first-ever meeting with families of Kosovo Serbs who went missing as a result of the war, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci pledged to address the missing persons issue during talks with Belgrade in Brussels.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Thaci (centre) at the meeting with relatives of missing Kosovo Serbs. Photo: Kosovo presidency.

Hashim Thaci said on Thursday that the issue of missing persons - both Kosovo Albanian and Serbs - should become one of the main topics in Pristina’s ongoing EU-mediated dialogue to normalise relations with Belgrade.

Thaci made his comments at his first-ever meeting with representatives of families of missing Kosovo Serbs.

“The fate of all the missing persons, regardless of their ethnicity, must be clarified as soon as possible. This is also a prerequisite for justice and sincere reconciliation between the people,” he said.

“This issue must be opened in Brussels as well, in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, that all instances, all institutions, must work in order to solve and to close this pain and this suffering as soon as possible,” he added.

Currently, 1,666 people are listed as missing - both Serbs are Albanians - but the issue has not yet been on the table during the dialogue in Brussels that aims to resolve the disputes between two countries.

Since he took the presidency in February this year, Thaci has made a number of moves seen as attempts at reconciliation with the Serb community in Kosovo, which still perceives him as the main culprit behind the expulsions and murders of Serbs after the war ended in 1999.

Among Kosovo Liberation Army veterans, he is still considered as one of key political leaders who secured Kosovo’s independence after the war.

Thaci has made several pledges to find and prosecute those who killed Kosovo Serbs.

He has also visited several memorials to those who were killed, a move which was seen by some analysts in Pristina as an attempt to improve his image ahead of the impending establishment of the new Hague-based Special Court that is to try former Kosovo Liberation Army officials for alleged crimes committed during and after the 1998-99 conflict.

A 2011 Council of Europe report alleged that Thaci, a former KLA leader, was one of the main organisers of criminal activities in the Kosovo Liberation Army during and after the war.

The allegations made in the report eventually led to the setting up of the new Special Court, but Thaci has always denied any links to crimes and publicly supported attempts to prosecute those responsible.

The new court is expected to be operational by the end of the year, while BIRN has learned that the first indictments can be expected at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.

The court will be staffed by international judges and prosecutors, although it will operate under Kosovo’s laws.

Many believe that top Kosovo politicians will end up in the dock, including Thaci.

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