Now the Hague prosecution has taken a step forward. Thaci told reporters in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, that the indictment against him was confirmed after a review by a pretrial judge in the special chamber in The Hague. The allegations appear to date to his time as a commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army when it fought a war to break away from Serbia starting in 1998.
Thaci said that he was stepping down “to protect the integrity of the presidency of Kosovo” and that he planned to face the charges as a civilian and not as the leader of a country. Vjosa Osmani, the head of Kosovo’s parliament, has taken over as acting president pending the election of a new leader.
A spokesman for the court declined to comment. It has not formally published the indictment, but it issued a brief statement in June outlining the range of charges. It said the victims were Kosovo Albanians, Serbs, Romas and other ethnicities, and that some of them were political opponents.
Thaci had been president since 2016. He has been a dominant figure in Kosovo’s political life for decades, first as a separatist militia leader and then as a politician once the territory achieved autonomy from Serbia. He was prime minister of Kosovo when it declared independence in 2008.
Other top Kosovo Liberation Army officials, many of them active in Kosovo political life, also face charges. Kadri Veseli, Thaci’s successor as the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, said Thursday that he was resigning his position and immediately traveling voluntarily to The Hague to face indictments, which he said a pretrial judge has confirmed. Kosovo media reported that Veseli, Thaci and other officials were at the Pristina airport Thursday to travel to The Hague.
“I see it as an opportunity to finally respond to these false suspicions and rumors which have been circulating for years,” Veseli said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Jakup Krasniqi, another former Kosovo Liberation Army leader, was arrested in Pristina and transferred to The Hague to face war crimes charges. Krasniqi is a former speaker of parliament.
The special chamber in The Hague is staffed with international judges and prosecutors but operates under Kosovo law.
The 1998-1999 war in Kosovo between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign. It led, nine years later, to Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Serbia never recognized Kosovo’s statehood, and the unresolved borders have prevented full stability in the Balkans ever since. European officials have said the conflict must be resolved before Serbia can join the European Union.
The European Commission “welcomes” Thaci’s decision to submit to the court proceedings, Peter Stano, a spokesman for E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said in a statement. “Full cooperation with these institutions is essential as an important demonstration of Kosovo’s commitment to the rule of law.”
Thaci has been negotiating for years with Vucic, who was on the other side of the Kosovo war as a minister in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to normalize relations between Pristina and Belgrade. But the two sides have not been able to agree on what to do about pockets of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and Albanian-speaking communities within Serbia.
Trump deputized Richard Grenell, a former ambassador to Germany and acting national intelligence director, as an envoy to try to resolve the conflict.
Trump ultimately met in September with Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti in the White House, where the two sides announced an agreement to bolster their economic ties. But a full, final mutual recognition has remained out of reach.