Kosovo president resigns after being indicted for war crimes

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Hashim Thaçi will surrender to the Special Court that accuses him of the death of a hundred people and of participating in torture, persecution and forced disappearances between 1998 and 1999

The President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, resigned this Thursday after the Special Court for Kosovo, based in The Hague, confirmed the accusations against him for war crimes between 1998 and 1999, when the president was commander of the Liberation Army of Kosovo (KLA) during the conflict that confronted this guerrilla with Serbian troops from the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to achieve independence, declared unilaterally in 2008. The Prosecutor’s Office indicates that he is responsible for nearly a hundred civilian deaths, including Kosovo Albanians, Serbs, members of the Roma community and political rivals, and of participating in torture, persecution and enforced disappearances. “I will not allow to appear in court as president, and I resign today to protect the integrity of the State,” Thaçi said at a press conference in Pristina with local media, where he advanced that he will travel to The Hague to surrender voluntarily and defend Their case. The Court has declined to comment for the time being.

The leader of the Kosovo Democratic Party, Kadri Veseli, who appeared alongside him in the statement of charges, has announced that he had received the same confirmation. Veseli was one of the founders of the KLA and considers that the Special Court for Kosovo “is the opportunity to refute once and for all the falsehoods and rumors that have circulated for years” about the alleged crimes of this guerrilla. According to the Kosovar media, Rexhep Selimi, another former member of the KLA, has also seen the accusation confirmed for alleged war crimes and will go to court. “The Kosovo Liberation Army fought to liberate our country and no one can judge our fight for freedom,” Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti said after hearing the news. This Wednesday, another Kosovar politician, Jakup Krasniqi, a former spokesman of the KLA, he was transferred to The Hague, charged with similar crimes, the court said.

Last June, prosecutors charged Thaçi, president since 2016, with war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the next legal step was to wait for the judges to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to proceed. Another nine members of the KLA were included in the accusatory statement, published at the time by the Prosecutor’s Office “due to the repeated efforts of the politician to obstruct justice,” as they assured. It was the Court’s first accusation, and in light of the situation, Thaçi canceled a trip to Washington to visit Serbian President Alexander Vucic. Serbia continues to consider Kosovo one of its provinces, and the meeting, on neutral ground, had been organized by Richard Grenell, special envoy for the Balkans of US President Donald Trump.

Thaçi, who has been Prime Minister on two other occasions and Minister of Foreign Affairs, said then that he was not ashamed of anything, considering that he fought for his country. A month later he appeared before the Court for questioning and added: “No one can rewrite History; my presence here is the price of Kosovo’s freedom ”. The European Union has issued a statement in which it welcomes Thaçi’s cooperation with justice, “given the importance of respect for the rule of law on the part of Kosovo, which is in turn an essential element in the European route and for the EU commitment towards the Balkans as a whole ”. For Amnesty International, Thaçi’s situation “offers hope to the victims of the war in Kosovo.”

Established in 2015, the Special Tribunal for Kosovo has followed in the wake of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), also opened in The Hague. As has already happened with those prosecuted for the Balkan wars, those accused by these courts are often considered heroes in their land. And in the same way, the conflict with Serbia had an ethnic character: it added about 10,000 deaths and turned about a million into refugees. Although the trigger was Serbian military repression, a Council of Europe report noted that several KLA members committed abuses and killings against civilians from other communities. He also accused the Kosovar rebels of trafficking in the organs of Serbian prisoners. Formed by international judges, they are governed by Kosovar laws, and it was necessary to locate it elsewhere to avoid tensions at home.

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