Kosovo Leader Resigns After Being Called to War Crimes Court

Kosovo Leader Resigns After Being Called to War Crimes Court

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s prime minister resigned Friday after being invited for questioning by a Hague-based court investigating crimes against ethnic Serbs during and after the country’s 1998-99 war.

The prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, said he agreed to be interviewed at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers next week and didn’t want to appear there as prime minister. He said he and his cabinet would continue running the country until a new prime minister is chosen.

“I considered that I cannot go to the questioning as head of the government,” Mr. Haradinaj said at a news conference. “I will defend myself as a fighter of my country.”

Mr. Haradinaj, a former commander of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, urged President Hashim Thaci to call an early parliamentary election and said he would be a candidate in hopes of regaining office. He said the special court summoned him as a suspect but he also told reporters that “I am not accused.”

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers was established in 2015 to investigate war crimes allegations against the Kosovo Liberation Army that were catalogued by the Council of Europe, a human rights body.

The allegations included the trafficking of human organs from prisoners and the killings of Serbs and ethnic Albanians. The court, which is part of the Kosovo judicial system despite being based in the Netherlands, started questioning former Kosovo fighters this year.

Mr. Haradinaj has been prosecuted on war crimes accusations and acquitted twice before. A United Nations tribunal first cleared him of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges in 2008.

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia concluded in 2010 that witnesses had been intimidated and sent the case back for a partial retrial. Mr. Haradinaj and two other former commanders were acquitted in November 2012.

Kosovo eventually made a unilateral declaration of independence in 2008. It is recognized as a nation by the United States and most of the West, but not by Serbia, Russia or China.

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