Kosovo president rejects war crimes indictment as ‘attempt to rewrite history’

President Hashim Thaci attends a ceremony of security forces in Pristina, Kosovo, December 13, 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hashim Thaci, who has been president of Kosovo since 2016, says he will address the country on Sunday

Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci has rejected a war crimes indictment he is facing, calling it an attempt to rewrite his country’s history.

In his first comments since the move by prosecutors at a court in The Hague, Mr Thaci said he would address the issue in more detail in a speech on Sunday.

The charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity relate to the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia in the 1990s.

Mr Thaci has denied any wrongdoing.

A special international prosecutor in The Hague says Mr Thaci and others “are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders”, torture and enforced disappearances.

The charges stem from Mr Thaci’s time as one of the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which rebelled against Belgrade when Kosovo was a province of Serbia.

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority view the KLA as heroes.

In a statement on Facebook on Friday, Mr Thaci said he had landed in the Albanian capital, Tirana, and would soon be heading back to Kosovo where he would address the country on Sunday.

“Nobody can rewrite the history of Kosovo!” he said. “I remain full of hope that the coming days will be the best for Kosovo and Albania.”

Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described the indictment at the EU-backed court as “good news”.

However, he urged “restraint” amid concerns that the move could raise tensions with Kosovo’s ethnic Serb minority.

In its announcement, the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) said that, on 24 April, it had filed a 10-count indictment with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) “for the court’s consideration”. It has not released details about the alleged war crimes.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A motorcade carrying President Thaci was pictured leaving Tirana airport in Albania on Friday

“The indictment is only an accusation. It is the result of a lengthy investigation and reflects the SPO’s determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” it said.

The statement also said Mr Thaci and another of the accused, Kosovo politician Kadri Veseli, had sought to “obstruct and undermine” the SPO’s work “in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice”.

A pre-trial judge has six months to decide if the court will issue charges.

Allegations of organ-trafficking against the KLA were first set out by a former Hague war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, in 2008. The court was set up to investigate the claims.

Kosovo’s independence war in 1998-1999 cost more than 10,000 lives and only ended after a Nato air campaign.

Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, something Serbia still does not recognise.