Kosovo’s president resigns to face war crimes charges in The Hague

By Associated Press in Pristina

Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaçi, a guerrilla leader during the country’s war for independence from Serbia in the 1990s, has resigned to face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity at a special court based in The Hague.

Thaçi announced his resignation at a news conference in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. He said he was taking the step “to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo”.

He was indicted by a special Kosovo court based in The Hague, Netherlands, which was set up to try the alleged crimes of former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders. A spokesman for the prosecutor at the court said he had no comment.

Thaçi is one of several politicians who have been indicted for crimes that include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture.

Among them is also former parliament speaker Kadri Veseli, who also said he had been issued an indictment by a pre-trial judge and that he planned to travel to the The Hague on Thursday.

Three other former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) that fought for independence from Serbia have been charged with war crimes by the court and an associated special prosecutor’s office established five years ago.

Exact details of the 10-count indictment against Thaçi, Veseli and others have not been released. Announcing the existence of the indictment earlier this year, the specialist prosecutor’s office alleged that Thaçi and others were “criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders”.

At the time, the prosecutor’s office said it made the existence of the indictment public because of what it called repeated efforts by Thaçi and Veseli “to obstruct and undermine” the work of the court, adding that they were believed to have tried to overturn the Kosovo law that created the court.

The formation of the court and prosecutor’s office followed a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, an international organisation upholding human rights, that included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners, and killed Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians.

The court is mandated to investigate and prosecute allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kosovo, or linked to the Kosovo conflict, from 1998-2000.

The 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia ended after a 78-day Nato air campaign against Serbian troops.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, something that Serbia has still not recognised.