Kosovan PM resigns after being summoned by Hague-based war crimes court

Kosovan PM resigns after being summoned by Hague-based war crimes court
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje July 21, 2019

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj irrevocably resigned on July 19 after being summoned to appear for questioning as a suspect by The Hague-based war crime court investigating crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against Serbs during the war of independence.

Haradinaj was a former commander of the KLA, a paramilitary organisation that sought the separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia during the 1998-89 war and the eventual creation of a Greater Albania. Among its former members are other top politicians including President Hashim Thaci.

“The reason for the resignation is that I have been called to appear for questioning by the Hague Specialised Chambers as a suspect,” Haradinaj said in a Facebook post.

The court was set up in 2015 in the Hague, but is working under Kosovo's jurisdiction. Allegations it will investigate include the trafficking of human organs from prisoners and killings of Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

Haradinaj has been already prosecuted on a war crimes charge, but a United Nations tribunal cleared him of any war crimes in 2008.

“My innocence and the war of the KLA, confirmed by two verdicts, cannot be stained by anyone and anymore,” Haradinaj added.

As prime minister Haradinaj has taken a tough line on Pristina’s relations with Belgrade. Kosovo and Serbia are engaged in EU-mediated talks on the normalisation of their relations, but they stalled after Kosovo imposed 100% tariffs on Serbian goods for political reasons. Haradinaj said earlier that Kosovo will remove tariffs, a move also sought by the international community, once it is recognised by Serbia. On the other hand, Belgrade has insisted Kosovo must scrap tariffs as a precondition for normalisation talks to continue.

A land swap idea between Kosovo and Serbia was being considered an option by Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic and his Kosovan peer Thaci, but Haradinaj was a harsh opponent to this.

"My political views are clear: Kosovo cannot stand as a prize for being recognised by Belgrade and hence giving territory to Serbia,” Haradinaj said.

Regarding the future running of the cabinet, Haradinaj said that his ministers would stay in office until a new prime minister is elected.

“After that resignation, I'm returning the mandate to the people to decide on the future leadership in free and democratic elections,” Haradinaj said.

He added that responsibility now goes to the president to start consultations to set the date for snap election.

Thaci said he believes in the purity of the KLA war and the high moral values of Kosovo's freedom fighters.

War crimes committed by Serbian forces during the Kosovo war were punished by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was established by the UN in 1993 and ceased its work in December 2017.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but it is still not recognised by Belgrade as a separate state. Russia and China have also not recognised Kosovo, but it is recognised by the US and most Western countries.