news 11 Jan 18

Franco-German Envoys Press Kosovo on Special Court

German and French envoys are adding to diplomatic pressure on Kosovo not to try to stop the new Specialist Chambers – which will try former Kosovo guerrillas – from coming into operation.

Die Morina
The Kosovo Assembly. Photo: BIRN.

A joint German-French delegation met Kosovo officials on Wednesday to voice concern about recent failed attempts by Kosovo MPs to revoke the law establishing the Special Court, set up to try Kosovo Albanian war crimes.

Germany's Envoy for South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and the EFTA States, Christian Hellbach, and the head of the French foreign ministry's Western Balkans Department, Thomas Bertin, were in Kosovo for a two-day joint visit on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The visit takes place against the background of concerns in Berlin and Paris about recent attempts to abolish the law on the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office,” the German embassy said.

On Wednesday, the delegation met President Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and opposition Vetevendosje MPs Albin Kurti and Glauk Konjufca.

On Thursday, meetings with civil society are planned. All the meetings are being held away from the media.

The German embassy on Wednesday said further topics to be discussed include the necessity of reforms, in particular in the rule of law, democracy and good governance, “which are essential for a further rapprochement of Kosovo towards the European Union”.

Kosovo MPs on December 22 attempted to revoke the law that allows the Specialist Chambers to operate, but, under strong pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, their bid to put the motion to a vote was unsuccessful.

The initiative to revoke the law was supported by the ruling coalition parties – the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK and the Initiative for Kosovo, NISMA.

The initiative came after veterans of the war of independence from Serbia launched a petition calling the new court “discriminatory”, as it aims to try only former Kosovo Albanian guerrillas, not members of Serbian forces accused of carrying out systemic atrocities.

However, parliament speaker Kadri Veseli, leader of the ruling PDK, said in an article on Monday that attempts to prevent the new Hague-based Specialist Chambers from operating would fail.

In the last few weeks several EU embassies in Kosovo and the US embassy have put pressure on Kosovo's governing bodies to give up on revoking the law.

“Such a move calls into question Kosovo’s commitment to the rule of law and risks all that Kosovo has achieved. It puts the interests of certain individuals above the interests of Kosovo society,” they said in a joint statement on January 4.

The Specialist Chambers will hear cases arising from an EU Special Investigative Task Force report, which said that unnamed Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, officials should face indictments for a “campaign of persecution” against Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians.

Although based in The Hague, the Specialist Chambers is legally part of Kosovo’s judicial system, but independent from the Kosovo judiciary and staffed by internationals.

In an interview on Voice of America, President Thaci said on Wednesday that the decision to establish the Special Court remained in force. He criticised what he called exaggerated statements on this issue that created panic among citizens, and reminded MPs in Kosovo that they approved the establishment of the court back in 2015.

Asked whether, as a former leader of the independence war, he personally was afraid of the court, Thaci said that Kosovo had set the best example in the whole region in terms of cooperation with justice and had nothing to hide.

“The Kosovo Liberation Army carried out a war which was totally pure; it is the most successful guerrilla movement that ever happened in the world; we did not attack anyone; we struggled to remove Serbia from Kosovo, and this is the nation’s biggest victory,” he said.

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