Thursday

9th Feb 2023

Kosovo approves war crimes court following EU, US pressure

  • The court will be funded by EU money (Photo: CharlesFred)

The EU has welcomed a decision by Kosovo on Monday (3 August) to set up a special war crimes court to prosecute former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

"While recognising that this step by MPs of the Kosovo Assembly was not easy, it is a sign of responsibility and determination to establish the truth and make decisions compatible with Kosovo’s European path,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

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  • "It is a sign of responsibility,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Eighty-two deputies voted in favour of the constitutional changes needed for the establishment of the court, five voted against and one abstained.

The court will be located in the Netherlands to allay concerns about witness intimidation and judicial corruption in Kosovo.

The court could see some top leaders and politicians from the former KLA stand trial over human organ harvesting allegations originating from an 2010 report adopted by the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watch dog.

Monday's vote was the second attempt after the 120-seat parliament late June failed to find agreement.

However after a month of heavy diplomatic pressure by the EU and the US, politicians from the governing parties managed to cobble together a sufficient majority.

Brussels and Washington have been pushing hard to set up the court in the wake of a report by Swiss senator Dick Marty - adopted by the Council of Europe in 2010 - which accused top Kosovan politicians and former KLA leaders of being responsible for the murder of civilians and human organ harvesting during the 1998-1999 war against Serbia.

The Marty report implicated foreign minister Hashim Thaci, parliament speaker Kadri Veseli and four others. All deny the accusations against them.

Kosovo’s President Atifete Jahjaga said setting up the special court demonstrated Kosovo’s commitment to the principle of justice for all.

“The special tribunal will address the allegations raised by the Council of Europe report and will not pass judgement on our collective endeavours for liberation and freedom,” Jahjaga said.

"Finding the truth about some allegations from during and after the war is a challenge that we have to deal with," Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said before the vote.

Organ harvesting

The issue is highly sensitive as the KLA is viewed by many as an army of freedom fighters against a repressive Serbia regime.

Last year, the former prosecutor of the EU's Special Investigation Task Force (SITF), Clint Williamson, said he found evidence of at least ten civilians being killed for organ harvesting, and was ready to file a lawsuit against top former KLA members and some current top politicians.

However, Williamson refused to give any names of those he suspected of the alleged crimes as investigations were on-going.

The new court will be under Kosovo law but financed by EU money. The EU and US embassies welcomed the vote.

"By dealing with its past and ensuring justice for the victims, Kosovo can achieve reconciliation and build a better future," the embassies said in a joint statement.

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