Kosovo's president resigns to face war crimes charges

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Kosovo president Hashim Thaci addresses the nation as he announced his resignation to face war crimes charges in Kosovo capital Pristina on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Thaci, a guerrilla leader during Kosovos war for independence, has resigned in order to face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity issued by at a special court based in The Hague, Netherlands. Thaci announced his resignation at a news conference on Thursday. He said he was taking the step to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA – The president of Kosovo, who served as a guerrilla leader during Kosovo's war for independence from Serbia in the late 1990s, resigned Thursday and was sent to a special court in The Hague where he will face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

President Hashim Thaci said he decided to relinquish his post “to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo” and to preserve the historical truth of which side was the perpetrator, and which the victim, in the conflict that killed more than 10,000 people.

“We are a freedom-loving people and not vengeful," the 52-year-old Thaci said at a news conference in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. “That is why no claim may rewrite history. Kosovo has been the victim. Serbia has been the aggressor.”

The court confirmed his arrival in The Hague late Thursday and released a redacted version of his indictment, which was initially filed in April and confirmed by a judge on Oct. 26, a decision that likely precipitated the timing of the president’s resignation.

It describes Thaci and three other former Kosovo Liberation Army commanders who also are now in The Hague to face charges as members of a “joint criminal enterprise” set up “to gain and exercise control over all of Kosovo by means including unlawfully intimidating, mistreating, committing violence against, and removing those deemed to be opponents” from March 1998 to September 1999.

The indictment charges Thaci alongside Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi. All four will appear in court for the first time in coming days.

Thaci and the others “shared the intent for the commission of each of the crimes" with other members of the joint criminal enterprise, the indictment said. They each face 10 charges including murder, torture, enforced disappearances and persecution.

The indictment listed several cases of illegal detention and mistreatment of prisoners by KLA fighters, including vicious beatings and electrocutions and the murder of many others.