News 15 Jan 16

The Hague to Host New Kosovo War Court

The long-anticipated special court to try senior Kosovo Liberation Army fighters for war crimes and post-war offences will be set up in The Hague this year, it has been announced.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
The court will be housed in the former Europol building. Photo: Europol

The Dutch government announced on Friday that it “has consented to the European Union’s request to the Netherlands to host this Kosovo court”, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The court, which is officially called the Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution, is expected to begin operating sometime this year.

It will try serious crimes allegedly committed in 1999-2000 by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army against ethnic minorities and political opponents.

“It is important for justice to be done. So we are pleased to be able to offer the court a home,” said Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders.

Koenders and the Dutch minister of security and justice, Ard van der Steur, said they believed that the Netherlands has a special responsibility as the host country of a number of international and other special criminal courts and tribunals, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

“This is a good opportunity to ensure justice is finally done and to hold people accountable for the wrongs they have committed,” said van der Steur.

Read more:

Kosovo’s New War Court: Major Challenges Ahead
Kosovo’s New War Court: How Will it Work?
Kosovo Praised for Approving New War Crimes Court
The Criminal Consequences of Kosovo’s Post-War Disorder
Kosovo Organ-Trafficking: How the Claims were Exposed

The court will be housed in the former Europol building once an extension has been built for a courtroom.

“In the meantime the court will be accommodated elsewhere in The Hague,” the Dutch foreign ministry said.

In March 2014, the European Union asked the Netherlands to assist its Special Investigative Task Force in possible criminal proceedings after its investigation into alleged crimes by Kosovo Liberation Army members was complete.

The 2014 ministerial letter, obtained by BIRN, says that the EU picked the Netherlands because of “the unique Dutch experience in the field of international jurisprudence”.

The Special Investigative Task Force conducted a three-year investigation into allegations initially made by Council of Europe, whose rapporteur claimed in a report in 2011 that crimes against civilians such as kidnapping, torture and organ-harvesting were committed by KLA members during the Kosovo conflict.

The task force’s findings will provide the basis for prosecutions at the new court.

The court, which is made up of international judges, is to be established under Kosovo law. This means it will not be an international tribunal, but a Kosovan national court that administers justice outside Kosovo.

However it remains highly controversial in Kosovo, where some critics say it is an insult to the KLA’s struggle against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces.

The Hague’s mayor Jozias van Aartsen said he welcomed the new court to the city.

“As long as there is no justice, there can be no truly lasting peace. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that this court can do its work here in our city,” he said.

The governments of the Netherlands and Kosovo have concluded an agreement which sets out the arrangements that apply to the court. The agreement still has to be approved by the parliaments of each country.

The court’s costs will be paid from EU funds.

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Background

From Kosovo's Organ-Harvesting Controversy to Special Court

This is the sequence of events leading from the organ-trafficking allegations in Kosovo to the creation of the special court that aims to prosecute Kosovo Liberation Army crimes.

Fatmir Limaj, Kosovo's Road-Builder

Corruption allegations have not dented the popularity of the KLA- fighter-turned-PDK politician who has made it his mission to transform the country’s traffic arteries.

KLA : From Guerilla Wars to Party Plenums

The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that came to the fore in the mid-1990s, demanding the unification of Albanian territories in former Yugoslavia with Albania.

KLA Ran Torture Camps in Albania

The Kosovo Liberation Army maintained a network of prisons in their bases in Albania and Kosovo during and after the conflict of 1999, eyewitnesses allege. Only now are the details of what occurred there emerging.

The Drenica Group

Crime gang allegedly headed by Prime Minister Thaci is said to have run a range of mafia-like enterprises, from cigarette smuggling to trafficking in organs.

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