Hashim Thaci arrived in The Hague to meet war crimes prosecutorsEuropost
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci arrived at the Kosovo Specialist Chamber (KSC) on Monday for questioning about alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed two decades ago, news wires reported. "Today I am ready to face new challenges successfully, for my son, for my family and my people. This is the price of freedom. I believe in truth and freedom," he told reporters before entering, according to a report by Kosovo broadcaster Klan Kosova.
The KSC operates under Kosovo's law, but is located in The Hague and staffed by international judges and prosecutors tasked with trying atrocities committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during and after the 1998-99 war for independence from Serbia.
According to a draft indictment released in June, Thaci and others face 10 counts of "crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture." The indictment needs judicial approval for the prosecutors' case to move forward, with the deadline for the decision in late August. Thaci dismissed the accusations but said that he would resign as president if he is formally charged.
With its dominant Albanian population, Kosovo was formerly a province of Serbia. The Albanians rebelled against Belgrade's rule and guerrilla attacks quickly expanded into a war, marked by the Serbian forces' heavy-handed response.
Klan Kosova said that Thaci is to be represented by British lawyer Geoffrey Nice, a prosecutor in the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes. Milosevic was tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for genocide and other atrocities carried out by Serb armed forces in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. He died in 2006 before the verdict was due.
Around two dozen Thaci supporters gathered outside the court for his arrival, chanting his name, holding up Kosovo flags and waving banners with slogans including "Hashim is not simply a name - it is a symbol of an honourable epoch." A number of Thaci's former KLA colleagues have previously been interviewed by the court.
A judge will decide later this year whether to formally charge Thaci. He said on Sunday before his departure for The Hague that "our war was clean and just" and that "Kosovo was a victim". The Kosovo conflict claimed about 13,000 lives - most of them Kosovo Albanians. It only ended when NATO forces launched a bombing campaign against Serbia that forced them to quit the territory.