Factbox: Kosovo Tribunal: the suspects, allegations and history

Former KLA officer Salih Mustafa appears before a special tribunal in The Hague
Former KLA officer Salih Mustafa, accused of murder, torture and cruel treatment during the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict, appears before a special tribunal set up to hear cases of war crimes allegedly committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), in The Hague, Netherlands, September 15, 2021. Robin van Lonkhuijsen/ANP/Pool via REUTERS

THE HAGUE, Sept 15 (Reuters) - The first trial opened on Wednesday at a special court dealing with crimes during the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict. read more Here are some key facts about the tribunal:

* The Kosovo Specialist Chambers tribunal was created in 2015 to handle crimes not tried by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which prosecuted individuals for atrocities during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and closed in 2017.

* The Tribunal sits in The Hague and is staffed by international judges and lawyers, but is formally a Kosovo court embedded in Kosovo law, rather than an international court such as the ICTY.

* The first case is against Salih Mustafa, 50, a former pro-independence commander who pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to war crimes. He faces charges of murder, accused of running a prison unit where inmates where subjected to daily beatings and torture. Prosecutors said victims were fellow Kosovo Albanians who disagreed politically with Kosovo Liberation Army fighters.

* The KSC has indicted eight suspects, all of whom are in custody at a detention unit in the Dutch seaside town of Scheveningen. They include former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who resigned and turned himself last year to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

* Prosecutors hold Thaci responsible for nearly 100 murders of civilians during the war when he was a KLA commander who fought the Serbian police and army.

* Thaci, a U.S.-backed national hero, embarked on his political career after leading the KLA’s battle against forces under Milosevic. He has been the dominant political figure in the country since its independence 13 years ago.

* At least 13,000 people died during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, then a province of Serbia under the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Anthony Deutsch Editing by Peter Graff

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