Kosovo president slams international war crimes court

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci stands in front of a banner marking the 10th anniversary of Kosovo independence during an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018, in Kosovo capital Pristina. Thaci said 2018 would be the year of a historic deal on normalizing ties with Serbia and Kosovo being recognized by the United Nations. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci points toward a banner marking the 10th anniversary of Kosovo independence during an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018, in Kosovo capital Pristina. Hashim Thaci said 2018 would be the year of a historic deal on normalizing ties with Serbia and Kosovo being recognized by the United Nations. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci speaks during an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018, in Kosovo capital Pristina. President Hashim Thaci said 2018 would be the year of a historic deal on normalizing ties with Serbia and Kosovo being recognized by the United Nations. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Kosovar kids run in front of a number ten sign marking the 10th anniversary of Kosovo independence on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018, in Kosovo capital Pristina. Kosovo president Hashim Thaci said 2018 would be the year of a historic deal on normalizing ties with Serbia and Kosovo being recognized by the United Nations. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo's president on Wednesday called an international war crimes court with jurisdiction over potential Kosovar suspects a "historical injustice," adding his government only reluctantly accepted it as the "price for its liberty."

In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the 10th anniversary of Kosovo declaring independence from Serbia, Hashim Thaci slammed the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, as akin to creating a court to judge Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis in World War II.

"Kosovo held a defensive war for its existence as a nation and attacked no one," he said. "We have nothing to hide."

Kosovo's bloody war for independence ended with a 78-day NATO air campaign in June 1999, which stopped a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. The war left 13,000 dead and 20,000 Albanian women raped, according to Thaci.

Under U.S. and European pressure, Kosovo's government agreed in 2015 to set up the Kosovo war crimes court, known as the Special Chambers, to confront allegations that fighters with the Kosovo Liberation Army committed war crimes against ethnic Serbs from 1998 to 2000. The court, which has jurisdiction over Kosovo citizens, has yet to hear any cases.

U.S Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie said Wednesday the court was meant to provide justice to the victims.

"The special court is not about whether the Kosovo Liberation Army struggle was right or not, if the KLA was good or was bad. It is about crimes committed by individual people against other individual people and the victims were all ethnic groups," he told the AP.

Thaci said war crimes by the Serb army, paramilitary and police have remained uninvestigated.

Some Kosovar lawmakers tried last year to amend the law and extend the court's jurisdiction over Serbs, their former adversaries in the war, but they appear to have stopped the efforts since.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, recognized by 115 nations but not by Serbia.

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Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lsemini

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