Kosovo, a guerrilla leader in Kosovo’s war for independence against Serbia, resigned on Thursday to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in an international court especially in the Netherlands.
President Hashim Thaci, 52, said at a press conference in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, that he would step down to protect the presidential office.
“Starting today, it’s a new chapter for Kosovo,” said Vigan Qorrolli, a law professor at Pristina University in Kosovo. Many see the presidential resignation as an opportunity for “a new stability here brings prosperity,”; he added.
Thaci, former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was indicted in June by a special court in The Hague on 10 war charges. Prosecutors charged him and other independent veterans “criminally responsible for nearly 100 homicides”.
He had previously denied the allegations and said earlier this year that he would resign as president if the allegations were confirmed. At a press conference on Thursday, he said this happened. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment and was not immediately informed about the exact timing of his arrival at The Hague.
The court in The Hague did not immediately comment on Thaci but said it would provide more information on Thursday.
The court prosecutor’s office in The Hague on Wednesday said it had arrested Jakup Krasniqi, the former interim president of Kosovo, after a judge also confirmed war crimes charges against him. He was arrested in Kosovo with the help of the European Union authorities.
Other lawmakers also said they would head to The Hague on Thursday to face newly confirmed charges, including Kadri Veseli, leader of the Kosovo Democratic Party; and Rexhep Selimi, an opposition lawmaker.
The indictment gives hope to “thousands of victims of the Kosovo war, who have waited more than two decades to find out the truth about the terrible crimes committed against them and their loved ones their love, “Jelena Sesar, Amnesty International’s Balkans researcher, said in a statement. She added that it showed “high-ranking officials disobey the law.”
Thaci has been president of Kosovo since 2016, a predominantly ceremonial role, although he also served as prime minister. He is the political backbone of Kosovo whose supporters have viewed him as a war hero, while his critics accuse his government of corruption and fraud in the judiciary.
The charges against Mr. Thaci, Mr. Veseli and others in June included murder, forced disappearance, arrest and torture, including political opponents. But the allegations need to be reviewed and confirmed by the judge, that’s the latest development.
More than 13,000 people died in the Kosovo war, most of them Kosovar Albanians killed by Serbian forces. But they also include about 2,000 Serbs, Romans and Kosovar Albanians killed in the NATO bombing or by militants like the Kosovo Liberation Army, according to figures from the Humanitarian Law Center.
The charges against the president come after the Kosovo parliament established a special court in the Netherlands in 2015 to determine whether the guerrilla fighters committed war crimes.
Prosecutors said the charges were made public because of Thaci and Mr. Veseli’s “repeated attempts” to obstruct the court and that the two carried out a covert campaign to “interfere with work The courts are meant to make sure they don’t face justice. “
Although Kosovo gained sovereignty in 1999 and declared independence in 2008, Serbia refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence and negotiations over a peace deal failed. Officials in Europe and the US have come to mediate the talks between the two sides in hopes of improving relations and securing a settlement.
News of the indictment in June delayed the planned meeting between Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the White House, the first official talks between the two sides in more than a year. Instead, Kosovo Prime Minister, Avdullah Hoti, attended a summit in September.