Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi. Picture: ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP
Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi. Picture: ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

The Hague — Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi has been charged with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the country's conflict in the 1990s, a Hague-based tribunal said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors at the Kosovo Specialist Court laid the charges on April 24, but decided to unveil them publicly two months later.

“The indictment alleges that Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli and the other charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders,” the court said in a statement.

The accused are also facing other charges such as enforced disappearance of people, persecution and torture, the tribunal said.

The crimes alleged in the indictment “involved hundreds of known victims of Kosovo Albanian, Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities and include political opponents,” it added.

Prosecutors said they decided to make public the accusations against the accused “because of the repeated attempts by Thaçi and Veseli to obstruct and undermine the work of the [court].”

A pretrial judge was reviewing the indictment to determine whether to confirm the charges, the tribunal said.

The EU-backed tribunal was established in 2015 to investigate crimes by independence-seeking ethnic Albanian guerrillas against mainly Serb civilians during the 1998/1999 war.

The war pitted Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas seeking independence for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo against Serbia's forces, who withdrew from the territory after an 11-week Nato bombing campaign.

The tribunal was created following an international probe after a Council of Europe report tied top former Kosovo guerrilla leaders, including Thaçi, to atrocities.

Kosovo's outgoing prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned last July after being summoned by the prosecutor for interrogation as a suspect.

Veseli — a wartime intelligence chief and former parliamentary speaker — said in November he had been summoned by the court to be questioned.

Kosovo's independence war claimed about 13,000 lives, the majority of whom were ethnic Albanians.

The territory unilaterally declared its independence in 2008, with backing from the US and most of the West.

But Serbia and its allies China and Russia have never accepted the move, and the status of Kosovo remains a major source of tension in the Balkans.

AFP