Smoke Bombs Thrown as War Crime Court President Visits Kosovo

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Police arrested six people in Pristina on Wednesday after a group of around 20 protesters threw smoke bombs outside the venue where Ekaterina Trendafilova, the president of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which is trying Kosovo Liberation Army ex-guerrillas for alleged war crimes, was holding an outreach event.

Because some of the smoke entered the venue, the event started around half an hour late. One journalist received medical treatment after he sustained injuries during the incident.

The protest was organised by Social Democrat Party, which has no MPs in parliament, to express dissatisfaction with the Hague-based court. The party announced that six of its activists, including its chairman Dardan Molliqaj, were arrested.

Commenting on the incident, Trendafilova insisted that her role is purely non-political.

“I am not here for political issues or to discuss about them. I have zero information regarding political issues,” she said.

This was the second outreach event Trendafilova has held in Kosovo since taking office in 2016. At the first one, in September 2022, she had to change plans and hold the event online after the group of protesters from the same party, supported by war veterans’ organisations, announced a protest at the venue in the eastern town of Gjilan/Gnjilane.

The Specialist Chambers are formally part of Kosovo’s judicial system but are located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.

They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who said Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas and protect witnesses from interference.

But the so-called special court is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the late-1990s war for liberation from Serbian rule.

The most high-profile defendant is former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who is on trial for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity alongside three co-defendants, including former parliament speakers Kadri Veseli and Jakup Krasniqi as well as ex-MP Rexhep Selimi.

The defendants are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including illegal detentions, torture, murder, enforced disappearances and persecution from at least March 1998 to September 1999, during the time they were commanding the guerrilla force. All four men have pleaded not guilty.

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