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‘Leaked files, organ removal and irrepressible anger’: What’s behind the Kosovo war crimes probe?

On 26 September, European Union security officers raided the office of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) veterans in Pristina, Kosovo, and led its president, Hysni Gucati, away in handcuffs.

It was the culmination of a busy – and at times bizarre – fortnight in Kosovo, where an international court based in The Hague is probing war crimes allegedly committed during – and in the aftermath of – the Balkan nation’s two-year war with Serbia more than two decades ago.

On September 22, Gucati announced that his organisation, which represents the Kosovar veterans of that conflict, had been handed files belonging to the international court by an unidentified person. It was the third time it had happened in two months.

He then offered the files, which apparently named President Hashim Thaci and other leading KLA figures as well as charges against them, to journalists.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which is probing claims that KLA members committed war crimes during and after the war, said that the veterans association was aiming to “undermin[e] the proper administration of justice.”

Less than 24 hours after Gucati was arrested and sent to the Hague his deputy, Nasim Haradinaj, was also detained in Pristina, “for […] intimidation of witnesses, retaliation and violation of secrecy of proceedings,” according to a KSC statement.

On the one hand, the charges against Gucati and Haradinajis are a sideshow to another arrest in Kosovo last week, that of former KLA commander Salih Mustafa, on war crimes charges. Mustafa is accused of arbitrary detention, torture and murder at a detention centre in April 1999.

On the other, Gucati and Haradinaj – both outspoken critics of the Kosovo tribunal – represent one of the court’s biggest challenges, probing war crimes allegedly committed not by the losers of a conflict, but by the winners: the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

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