After confirmation of a war crimes indictment, Hashim Thaci vacates his post. So far, he maintains his innocence.
President Hashim Thaci submitted his resignation on Thursday Photo: Visar Kryeziu/ap
There was a flurry of excitement in the presidential building in Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo, at noon on Thursday. President Hashim Thaci submitted his resignation. The reason he gave was that the Kosovo Special Tribunal in The Hague had confirmed charges of alleged war crimes against him. "I will not appear in court as president. To protect the integrity of the state, I am resigning today," he told a news conference in Prishtina.
Thaci is accused, among other things, of being responsible for nearly 100 murders of Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanian political opponents. The charges include crimes against humanity and war crimes. In addition, Thaci and the leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UcK) are alleged to have been involved in illegal organ trafficking during the 1998-99 Kosovo war and thereafter.
Hashim Thaci had been the political leader of the UcK, which had fought against Serbian rule and the apartheid system, since 1996. During the 1998-1999 war of independence, he was the UcK’s commander-in-chief. Thaci led the country to independence in 2008; until then, a UN mission (Unmik) had administered Kosovo. Thaci then ruled as prime minister until he was elected president in 2016.
The Special Tribunal for Kosovo is a Kosovar court and should not be confused with the UN tribunal against war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. It meets in The Hague only for security reasons, in deference to witnesses. This court, which was established in 2015, includes Kosovar judges as well as international judges. On April 24, 2020, the court published the indictment.
Thaci has so far maintained his innocence. There is no evidence that he broke the law, he said. His close adviser, Ardian Arifai, is also optimistic. "In the case of the organ trafficking allegations, there were intensive investigations by international institutions after the accusations by Dick Marty, a Swiss lawyer and rapporteur for the Council of Europe, in 2010. All of them could not find any evidence for the allegations," he told the taz on Thursday.
Arifai and close associates of Thaci expect him to be acquitted. Independent political observers in Prishtina also see the court case as an attempt to question the legitimacy of the UcK’s liberation struggle after the fact.