Monday

19th Aug 2019

Kosovo on trial, as Dutch to host EU-backed court

  • Thaci has hired a British PR firm to improve his profile (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

The Netherlands has formally agreed to host an EU-funded tribunal on Kosovo war crimes, with “sensitive” trials of former Kosovo guerrilla chiefs to start “this year.”

The Dutch government took the decision on the Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution (KSJI) on Friday (15 January).

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Details remain to be approved by Dutch and Kosovan parliaments.

But the Dutch foreign ministry said it expects trials, on “serious crimes allegedly committed in 1999-2000 by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against ethnic minorities and political opponents” to start “some time this year.”

It noted the trials are “sensitive” because “suspects may be seen by sections of Kosovan society as freedom fighters, and witnesses may feel threatened in Kosovo.”

The KSJI is to be funded by the EU and to have international judges. It will sit in the old building of Europol, the EU joint police agency, in The Hague.

But it will operate under Kosovan law and convicted criminals won’t serve sentences in the Netherlands, making it, the Dutch ministry said, “a Kosovan national court which administers justice outside Kosovo.”

“This is a good opportunity to ensure justice is finally done,” Dutch justice minister, Ard van der Steur, said.

The Dutch foreign minister, Bert Koenders, earlier told EUobserver he's confident the KSJI won’t stir unrest in Kosovo. “All the [political] parties in Kosovo agreed on the tribunal, so that’s a good sign,” he said.

It’s not known whom it will indict.

But Clint Williamson, a US prosecutor formerly in charge of investigations, said, already in 2014, he had enough evidence to go after “senior [KLA] officials.”

The Council of Europe in Strasbourg, in a report by Swiss politician Dick Marty in 2010, named six people said to be involved in organ trafficking, including Hashim Thaci, the foreign minister and former PM of Kosovo.

Thaci

EUobserver asked Thaci last year whether he would comply with proceedings if he’s indicted.

He said: “I will not engage in specualtion” and described the Marty report as “name calling and name dropping.”

He also said he’s confident the KSJI will exonerate the KLA more broadly: “We’ll do our utmost not to allow for the perpetrators of crimes [Serb forces] and the victims of crimes to be equals in the book of history … This was a defensive war and I expect nothing else but this will be proven.”

The KSJI announcement comes at a difficult time in EU-Kosovo relations.

Kosovo’s constitutional court has said an EU-brokered deal, granting quasi-autonomy to Kosovar Serb enclaves, violates Kosovo’s charter.

Opposition parties have also staged protests against the accord, including by firing tear gas in parliament.

The protests, last week, led to clashes with police on the streets of Pristina.

Some EU diplomats suspect that Thaci, who controls Kosovo’s security apparatus, has let things spiral in the hope that fear of instability will prompt Western states to shield him.

He has also hired a British PR firm, Sovereign Strategy, to boost his profile in Europe.

The Hague

The Hague is already the seat of the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the International Criminal Tribual for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

But the ICTY has so far targeted Serb suspects, creating grievances in Serb society.

Dutch people are alert to Balkans issues because Dutch UN peacekeepers, in 1995, failed to prevent Serb forces from killing thousands of Muslim boys and men in the Srebrenica genocide.

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