The shock resignation of Ramush Haradinaj drew sympathetic comments from senior Kosovo officials and politicians on Friday after the prime minister was summoned for questioning by the Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague, which is investigating crimes committed during and just after the Kosovo war, from 1998 to 2000.
President Hashim Thaci expressed regret that Haradinaj – a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander – and other former members of the wartime guerrilla force had been called for questioning in The Hague, but said he respected the premier’s decision to quit.
“I believe in the purity of the war of Kosovo Liberation Army’s war and I believe in the moral values of the warriors for peace,” Thaci said.
Thaci also said that his own adviser, Bislim Zyrapi, had been called for questioning by the Hague prosecutors.
Kosovo’s ambassador to Washington, Vlora Citaku, expressed outrage that Haradinaj would be questioned as a suspect.
“This is anything but justice!” Citaku wrote on Twitter.
“Twice acquitted from the Hague Tribunal, Haradinaj has been invited again by the special court as a suspect. This is persecution,” she added.
Haradinaj was acquitted of wartime crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague in 2008 and in 2012.
He told his Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party on Friday evening that he would uphold his “personal honour” in the face of any accusations of wrongdoing.
“I will respond to these detractors with the honour of an Albanian warrior,” Haradinaj said.
Fatmir Limaj, the head of the NISMA (Social Democratic Initiative) party, who was also acquitted of wartime crimes by the Hague Tribunal, said that the call for Haradinaj to give evidence as a suspect was unjust.
“Unfortunately this court was established by the Kosovo parliament, so the only alternative is confronting the slanders of the enemies of Kosovo with facts,” said Limaj, whose part is part of the governing coalition.
Haradinaj’s political opponents said meanwhile that they wanted him to step down, but not because of the rumoured war crimes allegations against him.
The leader of the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, Isa Mustafa, said he regretted the Hague prosecutors’ summons.
“The LDK has continually asked for the resignation of this government, but we feel sorry this is happening because of the invitation from the Specialist Chambers,” Mustafa wrote on Facebook.
He said he believed that the KLA’s war was just and that Haradinaj’s innocence will be proven again.
Another political rival, Albin Kurti, the leader of the opposition Vetevendosje party, said that it was “the right resignation for the wrong reasons”.
“Haradinaj… should have resigned a long time ago,” Kurti said, accusing the outgoing premier of a series of political mistakes.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is due to give his reaction on Saturday, but an MP from his Serbian Progressive Party, Milovan Drecun, who is also the head of the Serbian parliamentary commission for Kosovo, called Haradinaj’s resignation “good news”.
Drecun said it will “open the way to establishing justice for Serbian [war] victims and for the people responsible to be prosecuted”, Tanjug news agency reported.
The Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers are expected to try former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters indicted by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office for crimes including killings, abductions, illegal detentions and sexual violence. No indictments have been made public yet, however.
The Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office are part of Kosovo’s legal system but are based in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.
Specialist Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Christopher Bennet told Reuters news agency that he could not give any details about the questioning of Haradinaj because he has “an obligation to protect the privacy of every individual”.