News 16 Dec 14

EU Urged to Widen Kosovo Mission Graft Probe

An independent expert appointed to investigate allegations of corruption inside the EU’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo only has a ‘limited’ role, warned Human Rights Watch.

Petrit Collaku

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, to give more powers to the expert tasked with probing the corruption allegations, made by an EU prosecutor, which caused a scandal in Kosovo in October.

In the letter which was made public on Monday, HRW’s EU director Lotte Leicht said that legal expert Jean Paul Jacqué’s brief should be wider in order to ensure that the allegations are addressed “fairly and firmly” to maintain the credibility of the EULEX rule-of-law mission.

“We are concerned… that Mr. Jacqué’s role appears limited to overseeing EULEX’s internal investigation rather than conducting an independent investigation into the allegations,” Leicht wrote to Mogherini.

“That investigation should not be limited to the corruption allegations raised by the former EULEX prosecutor but should include all credible allegations of corruption implicating the mission and its current and former staff,” she added.

The allegations were made by EULEX prosecutor Maria Bamieh, who claimed that her colleague, judge Francesco Florit, took a bribe in order to release a defendant in a murder case. Florit strongly denied the allegations.

Bamieh has since been suspended. She also claims that EULEX initially failed to investigate her suspicions about Florit, and instead targeted her for being a whistleblower.

Last month Mogherini appointed Jacqué, a senior legal adviser to the EU, to conduct a four-month review of the situation.

Leicht said in her letter to Mogherini that Jacqué’s investigation should also look at complaints by Vehbi Kajtazi, a journalist from Kosovo newspaper Koha Ditore who reported on the graft claims, that EULEX pressurised him to hand over his source material.

“Free and independent media are cornerstones in any democracy and contribute to strengthen the rule of law. Any allegation that EULEX has put pressure on a journalist investigating corruption within the mission must therefore be promptly and thoroughly investigated by Mr. Jacque,” Leicht said.

The EU mission has denied that the mission asked for any of Kajtazi’s documents.

EULEX deals with cases of organised crime, corruption and war crimes which are considered too important or sensitive to be handled by the Kosovo judiciary.

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