Kosovan president claims he is innocent after questioning in The Hague war crimes court

Kosovan president claims he is innocent after questioning in The Hague war crimes court
By bne IntelliNews July 19, 2020

Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci said that he is innocent as he returned to Pristina on July 17 after being questioned for four days over war crimes indictments in The Hague-based court.

On June 24, The Hague-based Specialist Prosecutor’s Office said it had indicted Thaci and other politicians for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, disappearance of persons, torture and persecution during and after the 1998-1999 independence war between ethnic Albanian separatists from Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serbia. Thaci later denied committing war crimes and said he would resign if an indictment against him is confirmed by the court.

Upon his arrival in Kosovo’s capital Thaci was greeted by his supporters.

One day after the arrival, on July 18, Thaci delivered a speech to the Kosovan public saying that he is convinced that he will emerge "clean as a tear" from The Hague trial.

Thaci was directly involved in the Kosovan independence war with Serbian military forces. He joined the KLA in 1993 and was the organisation’s political director from 1994 to 1999 when the independence war with Serbia ended with Nato attacks.

In his speech, also posted on his Facebook page, Thaci said he had performed his "civic and institutional duty" in The Hague tribunal.

Thaci said the questioning during the four days in The Hague lasted about 30 hours during which he was acquainted with all their allegations and answered their questions. He did not provide details about the interrogation.

"The glorious history of the liberation war and the state-building of an independent, democratic and European Kosovo cannot be rewritten by anyone," the president underlined.

He also called on all parties in Kosovo to unite, particularly during the process of the dialogue with Serbia.

“We must speak to the world with one voice and develop the dialogue with Serbia with an exemplary unity,” Thaci added.

"Kosovo's freedom is sealed by the blood of those who fell for Kosovo's freedom," he said.

According to Thaci, the accusations are fabricated.

The Kosovo Specialist Chamber was set up in The Hague in 2015 to handle cases of alleged crimes by KLA fighters during the war that led to Kosovo's independence from Serbia a decade later.

Over 100 other former KLA members have been interviewed by the Hague prosecutors so far, including former PM Ramush Haradinaj.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but it is still not recognised by Belgrade as a separate country.

Due to Thaci’s indictment, the Washington talks between Kosovan and Serbian officials scheduled for June 27 were cancelled. 

However, EU leaders resumed their mediation efforts. On July 16, when Thaci was in The Hague, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti in Brussels, marking the restart of the EU-mediated dialogue between the two countries. The talks halted in November 2018 when Kosovo introduced 100% tariffs on Serbian imports.

Pristina insists the dialogue with Serbia has to end with recognition of Kosovo, which was a former Serbian province, by Belgrade.