Kosovo’s ex-president Hashim Thaci, who was to look earlier than a battle crimes courtroom in The Hague on Monday, is a former insurgent commander often known as “Snake” who fought for Kosovo’s independence and has dominated the younger nation’s democracy ever since.
For over 20 years Thaci has performed a central position on Kosovo’s political scene, making his identify in the course of the 1998-1999 battle with Serbia as political chief of the pro-independence ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Military (KLA).
The tall, silver-haired 52-year-old, who additionally served greater than seven years as prime minister, noticed his reputation soar when he declared Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008 simply three months after successful an election.
However his picture was tarnished by a 2010 Council of Europe report that linked him to organised crime and and politically motivated murders of Serb, Albanian and Roma civilians throughout and after the battle.
Within the years since, he has additionally confronted accusations of corruption, clientelism and cynical politicking which have blighted Kosovo’s first decade of independence.
But it surely was the war-era allegations that ended his presidency final week.
Final Thursday he resigned after a choose in The Hague confirmed an indictment in opposition to him for crimes together with homicide, torture, unlawful detention, enforced disappearances and persecution from the battle.
Thaci, who insists he’s harmless, had vowed to resign to face the courtroom as a citizen.
“These should not simple moments for me and my household, and for many who have supported and believed in me prior to now three many years of our battle for freedom, independence and nation-building,” he mentioned, saying his resignation.
– ‘George Washington of Kosovo’ –
Born on April 24, 1968, within the Drenica area of western Kosovo — a hotbed of separatism amongst Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian neighborhood –- Thaci was concerned in passive resistance to the Belgrade authorities from the early Nineties as a scholar.
He later moved to Switzerland, residence to a big Albanian diaspora, the place he studied historical past.
Along with ultra-leftists within the diaspora, he grew to become pissed off by the coverage of peaceable opposition to Belgrade’s repression of ethnic Albanians adopted by late Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova.
As an alternative, he corralled different like-minded ethnic Albanians into an underground guerrilla military, the KLA, to tackle the forces of then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Thaci earned the nom de guerre of “Snake” in the course of the battle, when he served because the KLA’s political chief.
Greater than 13,000 lives, primarily ethnic Albanians, have been misplaced within the battle that ended after NATO intervened in 1999, ousting Serb forces and establishing UN administration over Kosovo.
Thaci then downed his weapons and donned a swimsuit to hitch politics, main then US Vice President Joe Biden to as soon as hail him because the “George Washington of Kosovo”.
He gained elections in November 2007 after the dying the earlier yr of Rugova, who was considered the daddy of the nation and had proved unbeatable in all post-war polls.
Three months later, beneath Thaci’s management, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia.
He has since remained on the coronary heart of energy in Kosovo, notably turning into president in 2016, regardless of accusations of corruption by his critics.
He has all the time denied any wrongdoing in the course of the battle, describing it as a “simply” riot in opposition to Serbian repression.
“Political errors in peace I may have made, however battle crimes, by no means,” he mentioned earlier this yr, including that he would “instantly resign” if an indictment in opposition to him was confirmed.
“I cannot face justice from this workplace,” he mentioned.