Kosovo leader meets war crime prosecutors

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci has arrived at The Hague after his indictment for war crimes.
Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci has arrived at The Hague after his indictment for war crimes.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has arrived in The Hague for a meeting with war crimes prosecutors, after his indictment for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during Kosovo's 1998-99 uprising against repressive Serbian rule.

Before entering the Specialist Chambers set up to handle cases of alleged crimes during the uprising, Thaci said on Monday he stood for "truth, reconciliation and peace".

Prosecutors hold Thaci, an ex-top commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), responsible for almost 100 murders of civilians during the war which ultimately led to Kosovo's independence.

Thaci had earlier accepted an invitation by the court to discuss the allegations against him, and was expected to fly back home later in the day after the meeting. He has previously denied involvement in any war crimes during the conflict.

"Nobody can rewrite history. This is the price you pay for freedom," Thaci said on his arrival at the Specialist Chamber.

The indictment, which also covers alleged crimes against humanity, is not final and a judge will take several months to decide whether the case, built by the special prosecutor's office, is strong enough to put him on trial.

Around 20 ethnic Albanians demonstrated outside the chamber in support of Thaci, waving Kosovo and Albanian flags and chanting "U-C-K" - the Albanian language acronym for the KLA.

The Kosovo Specialist Chamber is governed by Kosovo law but is staffed by international judges and prosecutors.

War crimes allegations against the KLA first surfaced in a 2011 report by the Council of Europe rights agency which accused guerrillas of killing civilian Serbs and ethnic Albanian political opponents during the insurrection.

Local efforts to investigate alleged war crimes have so far been foiled by widespread intimidation in the tiny Balkan state, where clan loyalties run deep and former rebels are lionised.

Australian Associated Press