Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has arrived for questioning by war crimes prosecutors in The Hague for the first time, saying that “nobody can rewrite history” over his role in the 1990s war.
Thaci was indicted in late June for war crimes and crimes against humanity by a special tribunal investigating the 1998-1999 conflict with Serbia. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a move not recognised by Serbia.
Thaci and others are charged with being “criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders” in addition to other crimes against Serb, Roma and Kosovo Albanian victims while he was the leader of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
“I am ready to face the new challenge and succeed for my son, my family, my people and my country,” Thaci told reporters on Monday outside the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, where banner-waving supporters had gathered.
“Nobody can rewrite history. This is a price of freedom,” he said.
‘A success story’
President since 2016 and prime minister before that, in recent years Thaci has taken part in talks aimed at normalising ties with Serbia, which still rejects Kosovo’s independence.
“Kosovo is a success story, I am very proud,” Thaci said before entering the heavily secured court building.
“I believe in peace through reconciliation and justice. I believe in dialogue and relations with all nations.”
A judge will decide later this year whether to formally charge Thaci, Kosovo’s most powerful politician.
He has previously said he would resign if the charges are confirmed, insisting that he was innocent.
“Our war was clean and just,” Thachi said before his departure for The Hague on Sunday.
The Kosovo conflict, which killed about 13,000 people, ended when NATO forces launched a bombing campaign against Serbia that forced them to leave the territory.