Kosovo president resigns to face war crimes charges

Hashim Thaci, a leader during Kosovo’s war for independence, is accused of nearly 100 murders and other atrocities.

Kosovo''s President Hashim Thaci signs the Order of Freedom awarded to U.S President Donald Trump, in capital Pristina, Kosovo on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Kosovo''s president awarded U.S. President Donal
Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci has resigned to face war crimes charges at an international court [File: Visar Kryeziu/AP]

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, a leader during Kosovo’s war for independence, has resigned in order to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at a special court based in The Hague.

Thaci announced his resignation at a news conference on Thursday.

“I resign as of today,” Thaci told reporters in the Kosovo capital, Pristina, adding his sources had informed him the Kosovo Specialist Chamber in The Hague had confirmed his indictment.

Thaci commanded fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998-1999 war.

He said he was quitting “to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo”.

Thaci held a ceremony at his office to hand over his presidential duties to parliament speaker Vjosa Osmani.

The government said the “constitution and the laws in power guarantee a clear transition of powers and exercising the responsibilities without any institutional vacuum”.

Thaci’s resignation comes after his closest ally and the head of his Democratic Party, Kadri Veseli, also said he has been indicted and would travel to The Hague for the trial, and follows the arrest of Jakup Krasniqi, a veteran Kosovo politician and former spokesman for the KLA.

After Krasniqi’s arrest on Thursday he was transferred to The Hague, the Kosovo war crimes tribunal said in a statement, but did not give details about the indictment against him.

According to a draft indictment revealed in June, Thaci and nine others committed “nearly 100 murders” and other atrocities against “hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities” and including political opponents.

Thaci was questioned over his role in the 1990s conflict by prosecutors in The Hague for the first time in July.

Like Thaci, Krasniqi will face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Kosovo Specialist Chamber said.

Krasniqi’s arrest came after heavily armed police from the European Union Rule-of-Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo raided his home on the outskirts of the capital.

The Specialist Chamber was set up in The Hague in 2015 to handle cases of alleged crimes by KLA fighters during the war that eventually led to Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

The Hague-based court is governed by Kosovo law but is staffed by international judges and prosecutors.

The war, which came to an end after NATO-led air raids, left more than 10,000 dead and 1,641 people remain unaccounted for.

Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Serbia and Kosovo have been engaged in negotiations brokered with the European Union since 2011 in an attempt to normalise relations and open the door for EU membership.

Source: News Agencies