Visar Kryeziu / AP
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who fought in his country’s 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia, was abruptly resigned after a special court based in La Hay confirmed that he was indicted for war crimes.
Speaking at a press conference in the Kosovo capital Pristina, Thaci said he resigned “to protect the integrity of the state.”
“I am resigning from today,” he told reporters on Thursday, calling for calm and “political and civic unity.”
Thaci, a permanent figure in Kosovo politics for 20 years, will face charges at the Kosovo Specialist Division in The Hague. The court was established in 2015 to handle war crimes allegations stemming from the war that ended in 1999 after the US-led NATO army bombed Serbia. Kosovo claimed to be a country in 2008, but Serbia still claims Kosovo as its own. Serbian allies prevented Kosovo from joining the United Nations, NATO and the European Union.
Visar Kryeziu / AP
Thaci was a high-ranking commander in the guerrilla group of the Kosovo Liberation Army. After the war ended in 1999, he was prime minister of Kosovo and was elected president in 2016.
In July, a month after the indictment was first published, he met with prosecutors to discuss charges including “a series of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, forced deprivation, persecution and torture, “according to a court statement.
The indictment alleged that Thaci and some others “were criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders … known victims are Kosovo Albanian, Serbian, Roman, and other ethnicities and include political opponents”, court judgment said.
According to the Kosovo Special Investigation Division process, once the allegations are filed, they must be confirmed by an independent judge who determines whether the allegations are grounded. Thaci said on Thursday he knew the charges against him were confirmed.
Kadri Veseli, the leader of the Kosovo Democratic Party to which Thaci also belongs, released a statement on Thursday saying that the same court has also convicted him and that he will voluntarily go to The Hague to file himself. . A third politician, Rexhep Selimi, a deputy in the Kosovo parliament, also announced his indictment. He said that like Veseli, he will travel to The Hague.
Thaci’s resignation following Wednesday’s arrest and transfer to The Hague by Jakup Krasniqi, a former spokesman for the Kosovo Liberation Army and a former speaker of the Kosovo parliament.
Krasniqi was arrested “under a confirmed indictment relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and arrest warrant and transfer order issued by the pre-trial judge of the Kosovo Special Forces Department. “, the court said in a statement. It did not give details of the indictment against him.
Stephanie van den Berg, a Dutch journalist who hosts an international war crimes podcast, said the controversial court in Kosovo, where “all KLA leaders are politicians. former “.
“It is extremely important that Thaci apply for himself,” she said.
“He has always denied engaging in any crime and presented himself as a liberator of his people, a peacemaker,” she added. “It will be interesting to see how the special trials against him and others unfold as previous cases against Kosovar Albanians have been ruined by threat of witnesses.”
In June, Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the protection of witnesses in the case, which, according to the organization, “has hindered numerous war crimes trials against former KLA members. , both in Kosovo and at the United Nations International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia. “
Vjosa Osmani, speaker of the Kosovo parliament, will become interim president until lawmakers approve Thaci’s successor.