Kosovo President Resigns to Face War Crimes Charges

Kosovo President Resigns to Face War Crimes Charges

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) -- Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci, a guerrilla leader during Kosovo's war for independence from Serbia in the 1990s, resigned on Thursday in order to face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity at a special court based in The Hague.

Thaci announced his resignation at a news conference on Thursday in Pristina, Kosovo's capital. He said he was taking the step “to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo.”

Thaci was indicted by a special Kosovo court based in The Hague, Netherlands, which was set up to try the alleged crimes of former ethnic Albanian rebel leaders.

A spokesman for the prosecutor in The Hague told The Associated Press that he had no comment on Thaci's announcement.

Thaci is one of several politicians who have been indicted for crimes that include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture.

Among them is also a former parliament speaker, Kadri Veseli, who also said that he has been issued an indictment by a pre-trial judge and that he planned to travel to the The Hague on Thursday.

Three other former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army that fought for independence from Serbia have been charged with war crimes by the court and an associated Special Prosecutor's Office established five years ago.

Exact details of the 10-count indictment against Thaci, Veseli and others have not ben released. Announcing the existence of the indictment earlier this year, the Specialist Prosecutor's Office alleged that Thaci and others were “criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders.”

At the time, the prosecutor's office said it made the existence of the indictment public because of what it called repeated efforts by Thaci and Veseli “to obstruct and undermine” the work of the court and said they were believed to have tried to overturn the Kosovo law that created the court.

The formation of the court and prosecutor's office followed a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, that included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners and killed Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians.

The court is mandated to investigate and prosecute allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kosovo, or linked to the Kosovo conflict, from 1998-2000.

The 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.

In 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, something that Serbia has still not recognized.