News 08 Jul 13

Kosovo Parliament to Debate Controversial Amnesty Law

An amended version of a proposed amnesty law aimed at helping normalise relations with Serbia has been sent back to parliament after the original version was voted down.

Edona Peci

Kosovo’s parliamentary commission on legislation decided on Monday to send the amended law back to parliament for discussion after the original draft was rejected last week amid concerns that it could allow violent criminals to go free.

The legislation, which is part of the recent Pristina-Belgrade deal to normalise relations, aims to help integrate Serbs in north Kosovo by ensuring they are not prosecuted for resistance to the Pristina authorities in the past, which would prevent them from taking roles in Kosovo public institutions in the future.

“The draft law on amnesty has to be seen in a real context, as an attempt by the local and international [authorities] to integrate the northern part [of Kosovo] peacefully,” said Arsim Bajrami from the ruling Kosovo Democratic Party.

Serbia wants the amnesty so Serbs in north Kosovo cannot be prosecuted for.

Last week, seventy MPs voted in favor the draft law - ten short of the 80 needed to pass it.

Responding to the draft law’s failure to pass, the government on Friday removed one highly controversial section of the legislation which envisaged reductions in punishments for those convicted of crimes including murder, manslaughter, harassment, defamation, assault and theft.

It added a new article which states that “all criminal offences which resulted in bodily harm and murder will not be amnestied”.

The changes appear to have satisfied some critics, including the Kosovo Democratic League, which had opposed the first draft.

“Basically, we want this draft  law to proceed and later be approved after some little changes which could be made during the debate in the parliament or after it,” said Kosovo Democratic League MP Haki Demolli.

But Albulena Haxhiu from the opposition Self-Determination Movement called on MPs “not to vote the draft law despite pressure from the internationals” and called the legislation “criminal and harmful”.

“This draft law aims to amnesty all the Serbian criminals in the north and the criminals dealing with organised crime and smuggling,” Haxhiu said.

Parliament is expected to vote on the legislation again this week.

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