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 will face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity at a special court based in The Hague.
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.”
Thaci was indicted in April along with nine other former rebel leaders by a special Kosovo court and associated prosecutor’s office based in The Hague, Netherlands, which were set up five years ago to investigate and try former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders for alleged war crimes.
The charges, which were made public in June, include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture. A pre-trial judge had six months to decide whether to uphold the indictment and ruled to do so, a decision that precipitated the timing of the president’s resignation.
Most of the people who died in the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo were ethnic Albanians, and 1,641 people are still unaccounted for. A 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops ended the fighting.