European Western Balkans

Efforts made to repeal or change the Law on Special Court in Kosovo

Photo: AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu via Tanjug

Since January 2017, a Special Court based in The Hague has been operational in Kosovo, which is in charge of investigating suspicion of crimes committed against Serbs and civilians of other nationalities during and after the Kosovo war.

The Kosovo Specialist Court is a “hybrid court” intended to adjudicate war crimes, which were raised in a 2011 Council of Europe report produced by Swiss politician Dick Marty, against individuals associated with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the period 1998-2000. The establishment of the Special Court should be understood in light of the broader context of dealing with the past in Kosovo.

According to the report, “numerous indications seem to confirm that, during the period immediately after the end of the armed conflict, before international forces had really been able to take control of the region and re-establish a semblance of law and order, organs were removed from some prisoners at a clinic in Albanian territory, near Fushë-Krujë, to be taken abroad for transplantation.”

In Marty’s report, Kosovo Liberation Army leaders were named as the most responsible for the crimes to be dealt with, who were members of the so-called Drenic group. Today, some of the KLA leaders are the backbone of the political establishment in Kosovo.

“We found that the “Drenica Group” had as its chief – or, to use the terminology of organised crime networks, its “boss” – the renowned political operator and perhaps most internationally recognised personality of the KLA, Hashim Thaçi”, stated in the Council of Europe report “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo”.

This Special Court based in The Hague will be different from other international courts that dealt with war crimes because it will rule in accordance with Kosovo laws, but also with international law.

Nevertheless, the Special Court has been formatted to diminish the impression of a court in which the international community “sues one country”, as was the case with the previous International Tribunal.

The mandate of the Special Court in Kosovo covers only crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the period from 1998 to 2000, as stated in a 2011 report made by Dick Marty Swiss Senator to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

“Crimes against humanity” include any act such as murder, extermination, slavery, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery and forcible transfer of the population when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, aiming to inflict human and material damage.

However, war veterans demand that the process of forming the Court, which has already been formed, to be returned to the beginning or that legal changes are made in order not only to judge war crimes done by Albanians. Recently, a petition launched by war veterans came at a time when the Special Court has become functional in The Hague and is ready to receive the first indictments. Last week, president of the organization of war veterans of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Husni Gucati, said that the Special Court was biased and stressed the need that this court should deal with all those who committed war crimes.

According to the “Public Perception of the Kosovo Special Court”, a public opinion survey published in September by several organisations (Integra, Impunity Watch, CPT, PAX), three-quarters of Kosovo Albanians (76.4%) view the mandate of the Special Court for the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity mainly related to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as unfair.

The request for an extraordinary session came after a petition, organized by the war veterans of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and was handed over to the Parliament with more than 15,000 signatures. But, an extraordinary session of the Assembly of Kosovo on the Special Court wasn’t held because there was no quorum to decide on the issue raised by 43 deputies of the Kosovo Assembly on Friday night.

In regard to the request for an extraordinary session about Special Court, last Friday US Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie gave a statement about undoing the Special Court Law.

“I want to make it very clear that we the United States oppose any effort to change or repeal the law on the Special Court. International support for Kosovo’s independence was built on the idea that Kosovo would deal justly with individuals who committed war crimes. Wavering from this commitment will have extraordinary negative implications for Kosovo, for its citizens, and for its relationship with the United States”, said US Ambassador.

Also, reactions came from the EU Special Representative to Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova, saying that “the initiative of the Assembly of Kosovo to abolish the Law on Specialized Chambers and the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office (Special Court for War Crimes) is terrible and harmful to Kosovo”.

“Such actions would jeopardize all the joint work in the past few years in the rule of law and justice and would undermine all those who advocate the end of impunity”, said Head of the EU Office in Kosovo.

Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States

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