Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci, a guerrilla leader during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia in the 1990s, resigned on Thursday in order to face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity at a special court based in The Hague.
Thaci announced his resignation at a news conference in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. He said he was taking the step to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo.
“As I promised, I would not allow the president of the Republic of Kosovo to go to court. That is why, to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo, of the state of Kosovo, of the Kosovar citizens, Kosovar people, and respecting the partnership with the international community, I am resigning from the post of the president of Kosovo,” he said.
Thaci was indicted by a special Kosovo court based in The Hague, Netherlands, which was set up to try the alleged crimes of former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders.
A spokesman for the prosecutor in The Hague told The Associated Press that he had no comment on Thaci’s announcement.
Thaci is one of several politicians who have been indicted for crimes that include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture.
Among them is also a former parliament speaker, Kadri Veseli, who also said that he has been issued an indictment by a pre-trial judge and that he planned to travel to The Hague on Thursday.
Three other former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army that fought for independence from Serbia have been charged with war crimes by the court and an associated Special Prosecutor’s Office established five years ago.
The 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.
In 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, something that Serbia has still not recognized.