Kosovo leader assails empty 'promises' of Western leaders

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci (L), pictured in March 2017 with Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, may be indicted by the war crimes tribunal he agreed to establish in exchange for Kosovo's integration into the international community

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci lashed out at Western leaders on Monday, saying they had failed to fulfil promises made to his country in return for Pristina's approval of a war crimes tribunal. "Kosovo has kept its word. The international community has not," Thaci said at a presentation of a survey of public perceptions of the Hague-based tribunal which was approved by Kosovo's parliament in 2015. The court was established to conduct trials over alleged crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as it battled forces of the former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in the 1998-1999 war. Thaci said that Kosovo had been promised a quick application for membership in the Council of Europe and UNESCO; visa-free travel for the EU; and the creation of its own army if it adopted a special law authorising the Hague-seated tribunal. "The international community did not accomplish any of these promises; on the contrary Kosovo's euro-Atlantic journey has been made more difficult," Thaci said. A number of high-ranking KLA leaders, including Thaci, could be indicted by the court, which was established under international pressure following an investigation of accusations made in a 2011 Council of Europe report. The report said that a criminal network led by Thaci orchestrated the kidnapping and disappearance of around 500 civilians, mostly Serbs, after Milosevic's forces withdrew from Kosovo in June 1999. Thaci, who headed the political wing of the KLA during the war, denied the report as "politically motivated". Although a part of the Kosovo judicial system, the tribunal is mainly financed by the European Union and includes international judges. It is expected to bring its first charges by the end of the year. According to the survey presented at the meeting Monday, 76 percent of Kosovars say they believe it is unfair that the tribunal will prosecute war crimes mainly associated with the KLA.