Kosovo president says he will face war crime prosecutors if summoned

Pristina (AFP) –


Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said Monday he would respond "with fullest transparency" if he is summoned for questioning by prosecutors of an EU-backed international court investigating alleged war crimes during a 1990s war with Serbia.

The Hague-based court was set up in 2015 to try war crimes allegedly committed by the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) notably against Serbs, Romas and Kosovo Albanian political opponents.

Thaci was the KLA's political leader during the 1998-1999 independence war.

If summoned by prosecutors to the court, Thaci told reporters: "I will answer to such a request with the fullest transparency... the highest moral, national, political, constitutional and legal responsibility."

The special court has yet to announce its first indictment, but has so far summoned a dozen former KLA members, local media has reported.

Two former KLA commanders -- Rrustem Mustafa, also known as Remi, and Sami Lushtaku -- were the first to be questioned by the tribunal last week.

Mustafa, 47, told media that he was questioned as a "suspected witness" without explaining what it meant.

Lushtaku, 57, used his right to remain silent, according to local media.

The tribunal has yet to comment on the testimonies.

The court, which operates under the law of Kosovo, was set up in the Netherlands to protect witnesses exposed to pressure in war crime trials carried out by the local judiciary.

The court's prosecutors question suspects ahead of potential indictments.

"It is a necessary procedural measure while evidence is collected," prominent Kosovo investigative journalist Vehbi Kajtazi told AFP.

"The first indictments will be issued soon," he added.

"No doubt, this year will be the one of indictments," said human rights activist Bekim Blakaj, who the Kosovo Humanitarian Law Centre, a non-governmental organisation that monitors war crimes.

The head of the war veterans' association, Hysni Gucati, said last week that the tribunal will summon around 100 former KLA fighters for questioning in the coming months.

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, a former KLA commander, said last week that "the fact that our liberation war was pure and sacred will be demonstrated with force, every time and forever".

The Kosovo war was the last in a series of bloody conflicts that followed the collapse of communist Yugoslavia in 1990s.

The Kosovo conflict left more than 13,000 dead, including some 11,000 ethnic Albanians, 2,000 Serbs, and about 500 Roma.