News 29 Apr 15

Kosovo Needs War Crimes Court, Germany Says

On a visit to Kosovo, the German Foreign Minister has reassured Kosovo about the planned special war crimes court, saying sensitive historical issues need to be dealt with openly.

Una Hajdari
BIRN
Pristina
German FM Steinmeier at a press conference in Pristina.

Germany's Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that the creation of a special court on war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, during the conflict of the 1990s is an essential tool for Kosovo to deal with unresolved issues from the past.

"Kosovo owes it to its own history, and to its younger generations who hopefully have a long and prosperous future ahead of them, to deal with unresolved issues through the Special Court,” Steinmeier said, after meeting Kosovo officials during his visit to Pristina on Tuesday.

“I can only say from our own German experience that we know that the processing of history forms the only basis for a mature perspective of the future,” he said, insisting that the special court should not be considered “bad news” by Kosovo society.

Steinmeier met Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, President Atifete Jahjaga and Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci during his visit.

Kosovo is being urged by its Western partners to set up the special court, which parliament in Pristina is expected to vote on within the coming weeks.

The court, which will be set up as a set of Special Chambers within the Kosovo judiciary but based in The Netherlands, will have jurisdiction to assess crimes committed in 1998 and 1999 period by the local population including members of the KLA.

The formation of the court has caused dismay in Kosovo, where many people see the KLA as liberators from Serbia's oppressive rule.

However, the United States, Kosovo’s chief foreign ally, has said that if it fails to create the court, a UN court could be created to deal with the crimes.

The KLA was an ethnic Albanian guerilla force established to resist the Serbian army and police in Kosovo, which was then a province of Serbia.

Claims that it committed serious crimes appeared in a report by Council of Europe Rapporteur Dick Marty in 2011, and include accusations of organ trafficking. Some claims implicate the current Foreign Minister and former political head of the KLA, Hashim Thaci.

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