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
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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.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 49 sec ago
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Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
TRUMP OFFERS TO MEDIATE
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.