Kosovo’s Thaci strongly denies committing any war crimes

Kosovo president Hashim Thaci speaks during a televised address to the nation, in Pristina, Kosovo, Monday, June 29, 2020. Kosovo’s president on Monday denied committing war crimes during and after a 1998-1999 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbia and said he would resign if the indictment is confirmed by an international war crimes court. (AP Photo/Astrit Ibrahimi)
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Kosovo’s president said Sunday he was going to The Hague to prove to prosecutors investigating war crimes allegedly committed during and after a 1998-1999 armed conflict in Kosovo between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbia that he had broken no international laws during the war.

Hashim Thaci spoke to private television Top Channel at the Mother Teresa Tirana International Airport before leaving for The Hague to be questioned by prosecutors on Monday.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, a court based in The Hague with international staff working under Kosovo’s law, is mandated to look into allegations that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which was fighting for independence, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Thaci, a KLA commander, was mentioned in the indictment together with former Kosovo assembly speaker Kadri Veseli, and some others not mentioned by name. Both have denied responsibility for war crimes.

“It is true we violated the laws of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime and for that, I am proud as people and as an individual,” said Thaci. “But (I have violated) no international law under any circumstances.”

The indictment accuses them of being criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders of Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanian political opponents, as well as forced disappearances, persecution and torture.

A pretrial judge hasn’t made a decision on whether to proceed with the case or throw it out.

The fighting in Kosovo left more than 10,000 dead, most of them ethnic Albanians. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign in 1999 that forced Serbian troops to stop their brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanians and leave Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Serbia refuses to recognize.

“No one can re-write history. Kosovo is a victim. Genocide and ethnic cleansing have occurred in Kosovo but we are facing new situation and paying the price of freedom,” he said.