Kosovo's president has been indicted for war crimes.
This ties back to the country's independence war in the late '90s. Kosovo sits in between Albania and Serbia in the Balkans. In the early '70s, it was considered an autonomous province in Serbia and the majority of its population (about 90%) were ethnic Albanians. But the region suffered under Serbia's nationalist regime, and in 1998, a separatist movement called the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) attacked Serbian police. Serbia retaliated with a brutal crackdown. And the independence war began.
After over a year of conflict, more than 10,000 people – mostly ethnic Albanians – were killed and an estimated 1 million were displaced. The conflict gained international attention, including from NATO, which accused Serbia of ethnic cleansing. The org intervened to protect Kosovar Albanians, carrying out a 78-day bombing campaign forcing Serbian forces to withdraw. In 1999, NATO reached a peace deal that pushed Serb-led forces out of Kosovo. Years later, in 2008, Kosovo declared independence – something Serbia hasn't recognized to this day.
President Hashim Thaçi – who's served as Kosovo's prime minister and president for nearly the past decade – was one of the leaders of the KLA. Yesterday, The Hague's special court indicted him on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including for nearly 100 murders. Prosecutors said that he and other KLA members had murdered, persecuted, and tortured hundreds of Serb troops, civilians, and political opponents.
Thaçi has previously denied involvement in any war crimes. A pretrial judge still has to decide on whether or not to confirm the charges against him. Former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević was also tried for war crimes – including for actions in Kosovo – in the 2000s. But he died before his trial could be completed. Tensions between the two countries remain high despite recent efforts for peace talks. This weekend, the countries' presidents were supposed to meet at the White House to try to work things out. But Thaçi canceled his trip, and his PM will fill in.
Many were hopeful this weekend's moderated peace talks would finally lead to progress. Now, as The Hague pursues accountability for alleged war crimes, some worry this indictment could bring the Balkan countries back to a life of heightened tensions.
COVID-19. Yesterday, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announced they're requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days – if they come from at least eight states with high infection rates. New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said hotel clerks and police could help enforce the advisory. And that violators could face a fine of between $2,000 and $10,000. It comes as the US is seeing its highest level yet of new daily cases with over 45,000 new infections reportedly seen yesterday alone.
Ahmaud Arbery's case. Yesterday, a Georgia prosecutor announced that a grand jury has indicted the three men accused in Arbery's killing. Each faces nine counts including for felony murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. Arbery – a 25-year-old Black man – was killed in February after being chased and shot by a former police officer and his son while another man recorded the shooting. A lawyer for Arbery's family called the indictment a "significant step on the road to justice." If convicted of murder, the men could face life in prison or the death penalty.
Elijah McClain's case. Yesterday, Colorado's governor reportedly said his office would re-examine the case of the 23-year-old Black man who died after police officers put him in a chokehold after stopping him last August. He was later injected with ketamine. Three days later, he was declared brain dead. The officers didn't face charges. But an online petition calling for a new investigation has gotten more than 2 million signatures.
Democrats and Republicans. Yesterday, Senate Dems blocked Republicans' police reform bill. The GOP had intro'd the bill last week to provide funding for de-escalation training, incentivize police to stop using chokeholds, and improve data collection on an officers' discipline records. But the Dems say it didn't go far enough. They want reform to include changes to qualified immunity and an explicit ban on police use of chokeholds, among other changes. Today, House Dems are scheduled to vote on their own version of police reform – a bill Senate Republicans say they won't take up. With both sides refusing to compromise, it looks like even nationwide support for reform can't get Congress out of gridlock.
...Oh and speaking of Dems, the DNC will now be held almost entirely virtually on August 17-20. Former VP Joe Biden plans to be in Milwaukee to accept the presidential nomination in person.
The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Earlier this week, the governor signed an executive order to change the state's official name to "Rhode Island" on gov documents because of the original name's ties to slavery.
You could still do a Chicken Run.
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