Kosovo President Resigns
Hashim Thaci was a rebel commander during Kosovo's 1990s war for independence from Serbia.
Kosovo 's president, a rebel commander in Kosovo's struggle for freedom against Serbia, resigned Thursday to face accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity at a Dutch special international court.
At a news conference in Pristina, Kosovo 's capital, the president, Hashim Thaci, 52, said he stepped down to secure the presidency 's office.
"It's a new chapter for Kosovo today," said Vigan Qorrolli, a law professor at Pristina University in Kosovo 's capital. Many see the resignation of the president as a "new stability here to bring growth," he said.
The former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, Mr. Thaci, was convicted in June by the Hague Special Court on 10 counts of war crimes. Prosecutors charged him and other former freedom fighters of "criminally capable of almost 100 murders."
Mr. Thaci has initially dismissed the claims, but said he'd withdraw if a judge accepted the accusations, which they did this week.
Late Thursday, the court said Mr. Thaci arrived in The Hague and reached the outskirts of the city 's international detention centre. Two people, likewise convicted of war crimes, Kadri Veseli, chairman of Kosovo's Democratic Party, and Rexhep Selimi, a senator, travelled with him and also entered the jail.
A court judge has upheld war crimes charges against Jakup Krasniqi, Kosovo 's former temporary president. Prosecutors said Wednesday he was arrested with the assistance of EU officials.
The indictment gave hope to "thousands of Kosovo war refugees who have waited for more than two decades to find out the truth about the heinous crimes committed against them and their loved ones," said Jelena Sesar, the Balkans researcher at Amnesty International. She added showing "senior officials are not above the rules."
Kosovo's parliamentary chairman, Vjosa Osmani, took over Mr. Thaci 's duties, becoming acting president in a Thursday ceremony. Ms. Osmani, 38, said that Serbia was responsible for those who died in battle.
Mr. Thaci was Kosovo 's president since 2016, a mainly ceremonial position, although he also served as prime minister. He is a symbol of Kosovo's politics whose followers heralded him as a war hero, while his opponents accused his government of incompetence and rigging the judiciary.
The war-crime charges against Mr. Thaci, Mr. Veseli and others in June include murder, forced disappearance of civilians, harassment and torture, including political opponents. But a judge had to check and approve the allegations, the new development.
Over 13,000 people died in the Kosovo conflict, mainly Albanians killed by Serbian forces. Although they also include about 2,000 Albanians killed in NATO bombing or by militants including the Kosovo Liberation Army, according to estimates from the Humanitarian Law Centre.
The allegations against the president were introduced after Kosovo 's parliament set up the Dutch special court in 2015 to decide if rebel fighters committed war crimes.
Prosecutors said the allegations were made public because of Mr. Thaci and Mr. Veseli's "repeated attempts" to hinder the court, and the two have launched a covert operation to "obstruct the court's work in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice."
While Kosovo gained its autonomy in 1999 and declared its independence in 2008, Serbia has failed to recognize Kosovo 's independence, and talks have flailed for a peace settlement. European and American officials facilitated dialogs between the two countries, seeking to strengthen ties and secure peace.
Accusation reports in June postponed a scheduled meeting between Mr. Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the White House, the first official negotiations between the two in over a year. Kosovo's premier, Avdullah Hoti, instead attended a September summit.