News 07 Feb 17

EU Appoints 19 Judges for New Kosovo Court

The European Union approved 19 judges who will serve at the new Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers, set up to try former Kosovo Liberation Army members for 1990s wartime crimes.

Marija Ristic
The new court will be housed in the former Europol building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/DennisHH.

The EU on Tuesday announced the roster of judges - most of them from European countries, with two from the United States and Canada - as the new Kosovo court came one step closer to becoming fully operational.

“I welcome the appointment of such highly qualified lawyers, each of whom - without any doubt - will greatly contribute to our mandate of ensuring fair and efficient justice,” Ekaterina Trendafilova, the President of the Specialist Chambers, said in a press statement.

“As a next step, I will convene the first plenary of judges in the near future, during which the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Specialist Chambers, regulating the conduct of the judicial proceedings before them, will be adopted,” she added.

Trendafilova is the only permanent judge in the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecution Office, which are officially part of Kosovo’s judicial system but will act independently, have international staff and be based in The Hague.

All the other appointed judges will only be present when asked by Trendafilova.

The newly-appointed judges

1. Keith Raynor (Vice-President), United Kingdom
2. Roland Dekkers (Specialist Chamber of the Constitutional Court), Netherlands
3. Anne Power-Forde (Specialist Chamber of the Constitutional Court), Ireland
4. Vidar Stensland (Specialist Chamber of the Constitutional Court), Norway
5. Antonio Balsamo (Specialist Chamber of the Constitutional Court, Reserve Judge), Italy
6. Kai Ambos, Germany
7. Christoph Barthe, Germany
8. Michael Bohlander, Germany
9. Emilio Gatti, Italy
10. Nicolas Guillou, France
11. Thomas Laker, Germany
12. Guénaël Mettraux, Switzerland
13. Vladimir Mikula, Czech Republic
14. Andres Parmas, Estonia
15. Michèle Picard, France
16. Kenneth Roberts, Canada
17. Charles Smith III, United States of America
18. Mappie Veldt-Foglia, Netherlands
19. Christine van der Wyngaert, Belgium

The ‘host state agreement’ between the Netherlands and Kosovo, which provides the legal basis for the Specialist Chambers to conduct proceedings in the Netherlands, also entered into force at the start of this month.

Senior Kosovo Liberation Army figures are expected to be charged with alleged crimes committed during and after the war with Serbian forces, although the first indictments are still pending.

The new court will hear cases arising from the 2014 EU Special Investigative Task Force report which said that unnamed KLA officials would face indictments for a “campaign of persecution” against Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians believed to be collaborators with the Belgrade regime.

The alleged crimes include killings, abductions, illegal detentions and sexual violence.

The Special Investigative Task Force report was commissioned after the Council of Europe published an inquiry in 2011 which alleged that some senior Kosovo officials, including current President Hashim Thaci, were responsible for various human rights abuses.

Thaci strongly denied the allegations, and since he become president in February 2016, he has publicly supported the establishment of the new court.

For the past 17 years since the war ended, the international community has been administrating justice in Kosovo, but its results have been poor - fewer than 20 final verdicts in war crimes cases. Serbia has prosecuted seven cases related to the Kosovo war.

However, it was believed that the Kosovo prosecution couldn’t handle sensitive cases against high officials, which was one of the reasons why the international community decided to establish the new court.

In Kosovo itself, the court is seen as biased as it will only try former KLA fighters - people perceived as liberators by the majority of the country’s Albanian population - while in Serbia, the court has wide support due to hopes that it will prosecute crimes against Serbs.

The Kosovo war saw some 13,000 people killed, mostly Kosovo Albanians, and a million expelled, while 1,666 people are still listed as missing.

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