RECOM Reconciliation Network



Letter of the president of Kosovo to Chief State Prosecutor

Kosovo, War Crimes


Prishtina, 10 October 2016.

Dear Chief State Prosecutor,

Let me congratulate you for the achievements of the Office of the State Chief Prosecutor in installing rule of law in the whole territory of the Republic of Kosovo. Commitment and professionalism of your Office, deserves the highest respect and consideration. It is thanks to this work, as well as the achievement of other institutions of the justice system in the Republic of Kosovo, that the transfer of competences from the international institutions of justice to the local institutions of justice was made possible. Now, almost the whole justice system is in the hands of the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo. This is why I am using this opportunity to address you this letter, to share with you some of the pressing concerns of the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo.

Our country, since the end of the war, has enjoyed the support of our international partners in building and strengthening the institutions of justice as well as in building capacities to undertake legal and professional steps to solve all criminal cases. We are grateful for this supports that has contributed to building and strengthening of our local capacities to do justice in independent manner. Now that these competences have been transferred to the local institutions, it is our responsibility towards all citizens of the Republic of Kosovo, to do justice.

I understand that indicting and bringing to justice perpetrators of criminal acts committed in the circumstances of war is a difficult process, legally and procedurally.

I strongly believe that doing justice will not only sanction the perpetrators but it would also give a sense of justice to the families of the victims and also facilitate rehabilitation of relations between the nations.

  • The well-known cases of crimes such as the massacre against the Jashari family in Prekaz, massacre in Reçak, Izbica, Obri e Epërme, Krushë e Madhe, Likoshan, Mejë, Dubravë, Qyshk, Lubeniq, and anywhere else in Kosovo, must receive the adequate legal consideration by the judiciary.
  • The cases well known to the public opinion such as the murder of the Bytyçi brothers, attempted assassination of the former President Ibrahim Rugova in March 2005; murders of a number of public personalities, are also cases that are well known to the justice institutions but are yet to receive a merited response by the judiciary.
  • I encourage you to undertake – within your competencies – all the measures envisaged by law, in particular for the following cases: The case of Gracke e Vjeter/Staro Gracko, municipality of Lipjan/Lipjane, where 14 citizens of Kosovo, of ethnic Serb background, were killed on 23 July 1999; the case of Gorazhdec/Gorazdevac, Peja/Pec municipality, where two young man were killed and 4 others were injured, all of Serb ethnic background, on 13 August 2003; the Bomb-attack of the “Nis-Express” bus near the town of Podujeva/Podujevo where 14 passengers were killed and 43 were injured.

One of the conditions for building a future based on reconciliation and cooperation is also dealing with the crimes committed during the war. The truth about these crimes must be pursued and none of these crimes should remain uncovered or even less a taboo.

  • This is particularly true for one of the most heinous crimes, systematic rape of women and girls during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo. This wound was kept silenced far too long. Thanks to the courage of the women, victims of this crime, today we have gathered sufficient information to grasp the heavy weight of this criminal act. These women, their families, as well as the whole Kosovo society, need justice.

Dear State Chief Prosecutor

Kosovo is a young independent state, with a secular and civic constitutional system but our peoples have ancient roots that are confirmed by a long and wide list of sites and buildings of cultural, religious and historic heritage. These sites are evidence of ethnic, religious and social diversity of our society, thus projecting the state of Kosovo that is founded in European identity.

Therefore, I encourage you that, in accordance with your competences, to engage in shedding light to the destruction of our common cultural, religious and historic heritage.

There are few categories that merit special attention by your office:

– Massive destruction of the sites and buildings belonging to Islamic and Catholic heritage committed deliberately by the state of Serbia in its attempts to physically exterminate the people of Kosovo during the war of 1998-1999. According to accurate data and studies, 218 out of 500 mosques in Kosovo or around 40 per cent of all mosques and other objects of Islamic heritage as well as 5 Catholic Churches have been destroyed or damaged, in a systematic manner, by the Serbian police and military. I am aware that a few of these cases were superficially included in the trials in the Hague Tribunal, as in the case of sentencing Serbia for war crimes. Let me also note here that some of the pearls, old and important, of our medieval cultural heritage have perished in this wave of unprecedented destruction.

– Destruction and damaging of the sites and building of the Serb Orthodox Church that took place after the war in Kosovo. We are proud that during the war not a single Serb church was attacked. Yet, after the war, there were numerous attacks and destruction, carried out by individuals or by criminal groups, directed against Serb Orthodox Church sites, among them some which hold important historic value. But they have never been thoroughly investigated and prosecuted by the international or national justice. Attacks carried out during the March 2004 riots received proper response by the institutions of justice, but in other cases there was no due process carried out. Therefore, I believe that the Republic of Kosovo, as well as communities such as the Serb Orthodox Church, need support and encouragement by showing commitment to fully investigating and prosecuting any of these shameful and criminal attacks.

– Destruction and damaging of the sites belonging to our cultural heritage is continuing even today, in all parts of Kosovo, and despite the fact that there is a clear legal framework in place and there are legal provisions from the time of the Declaration of Independence that clearly state the need, and the obligation, of the government institutions, in the central and municipal level, to protect the heritage. We are witnessing that private and personal interest often prevail over the public interest and our children are deprived of their history by disappearance of sites and objects that tell the history of Kosovo, of our people, and that are the testament of our presence in these lands. In some separate and isolated cases, these attacks hold elements of extremism, causing tensions that hurt our century-old tolerance, our dialogue between religions and our inter-ethnic reconciliation.

By respecting historical heritage of each community, we can claim and build our past and our future, our common, multi-ethnic future.

Therefore, honourable Chief Prosecutor, I invite you to actively pursue the solving of these cases as well as of any other case, one by one, in the name of protecting our state identity that is built on civic and secular values.

You will have the support of all state institutions and I believe also the support of the civil society, human right organisations, religious communities and the representatives of the international organisations present in Kosovo.

Please, accept my highest considerations.

Hashim Thaci

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