Kosovo PM resigns after being called to war crimes court

Kosovo's Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj talks during an interview with Reuters in Pristina, Kosovo, October 16, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 July 2019

Kosovo PM resigns after being called to war crimes court

  • More than 10,000 of the dead were ethnic Albanians, almost 2,300 were Serbs and Montenegrins and the remainder included a few hundred Romas

PRISTINA: Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, a wartime commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), said Friday he has resigned after being called as a suspect before a war crimes court in The Hague.
“I received a summons from the special court as a suspect and was offered to go as the prime minister or as an ordinary citizen of Kosovo. I chose the latter,” Haradinaj, 51, told reporters.
He added that he will be questioned “next week.”
The EU-backed court based in The Hague was set up in 2015 to try war crimes allegedly committed by the ethnic Albanian KLA separatists, notably against Serbs, Romas and Kosovo Albanian political opponents during and after the 1998-99 war.
“Responsibility now goes to the president to start consultations to set the date of the (general) election. I will offer myself to the people again to get their trust. I am not accused, but (will be) questioned” by the court, said Haradinaj, visibly shaken after a government meeting.
“The government of the country continues to perform its functions without creating a vacuum,” he added.
According to the constitution, after the prime minister’s resignation, the government is a technical body performing regular duties until a new one is elected.
President Hashim Thaci could nominate a prime minister in consultation with Haradinaj’s ruling coalition to form a new government, but if that fails he must call early elections.
“I respect his (Haradinaj’s) decision and as President of the Republic of Kosovo assure you that I will act based on my constitutional and legal competences and the citizens of Kosovo will be informed of any decisions I make in good time,” Thaci said on Facebook.
According to the president, several other former KLA officers were also summoned, including his adviser Bislim Zyrapi, wartime KLA’s chief of staff.
The resignation comes amid growing tensions with Serbia as the EU-mediated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade has been in stalemate for months.
In Belgrade, the chairman of Serbian parliament’s Committee for Kosovo, Milovan Drecun, said Haradinaj’s resignation could pave the way to resuming the dialogue.
“Haradinaj has become an insurmountable obstacle for any further talks between Belgrade and Pristina,” Drecun told Beta news agency.
He pointed to Haradinaj’s refusal to abolish the 100 percent tax on goods from Serbia, introduced in November, which Belgrade has set as the condition for restarting the dialogue.
Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s independence, but has agreed to discuss a possible binding agreement on ties with its former province.
The agreement is required for both Pristina and Belgrade if they want to progress on their path to an EU membership.

This is the second time that Haradinaj has resigned after being summoned by a war crimes court.
He was acquitted in 2008 — the same year Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia — and again in 2012 after a retrial was ordered owing to allegations of witness intimidation in the first case.
In an interview with AFP in January, Haradinaj said Kosovo would respond to all the court’s demands.
In mid-January, the special court began interrogations of several ethnic Albanian guerrillas in The Hague, including two other former top KLA officials, Rrustem Mustafa-Remi and Sami Lushtaku.
Kosovo media believe that first indictments are likely to be issued this year.
The tribunal was created following a 2011 Council of Europe report that accused the KLA of the kidnapping and disappearance of 500 civilians, mostly ethnic Serbs and Roma but also ethnic Albanian political opponents.
The Kosovo war — the last conflict in the former Yugoslavia — claimed more than 13,000 lives. It ended after a NATO air campaign forced out the Serbs and put Kosovo under UN protection.
More than 10,000 of the dead were ethnic Albanians, almost 2,300 were Serbs and Montenegrins and the remainder included a few hundred Romas.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.