By Xhorxhina Bami
Hashim Thaci told a press conference in Pristina on Thursday that he will step down as president after war crimes charges against him were confirmed by a pre-trial judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.
“I will not appear before the court as president. Today I resign from the position of president of the Republic of Kosovo,” said Thaci, who was the political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1998-99 war.
The Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office announced in June that it intended to charge Thaci, former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli and others with a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.
“The indictment alleges that Hashim Thaci, Kadri Veseli, and the other charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders. The crimes alleged in the indictment involve hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents,” it said.
Veseli also said on Thursday that the indictment charging him has been confirmed.
Thaci’s resignation means that parliamentary speaker Vjosa Osmani will now serve as acting president until Kosovo’s parliament manages to reach a consensus on a new head of state.
Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti’s office said in a statement after the resignation of Thaci that “the Kosovo Liberation Army fought for the liberation of our country” and that “no one can judge our struggle for freedom”.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up to try crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.
They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who feared that Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from interference.
The so-called ‘special court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.