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news 13 Mar 15

Kosovo to Jail Fighters in Foreign Conflicts

Kosovo has made fighting in foreign conflicts a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail, as concerns grow over the number of Kosovo nationals heading off to wars in the Middle East.

Una Hajdari
BIRN
Pristina

 

Kosovo's parliament on Wednesday adopted a law punishing participation in foreign conflicts with up to 15 years in jail – part of the government’s measures aimed at tackling the issue of Kosovars heading to the Middle East and fighting for Islamic State extremists.

The Law on the Prohibition of Joining Armed Conflicts Outside State Territory, passed by 60 votes in the 119-member parliament, makes it a criminal offence to “join or participate in foreign armies or police forces” in “armed conflicts outside of the territory of the Republic of Kosovo.”

The law criminalises persons who “organize, recruit, finance, encourage, lead or train people or groups of people with the goal of joining or participating in foreign armies or police forces”. Those found guilty face a jail term of up to 15 years.

It will not apply to Kosovo nationals with dual nationality or to persons who “serve in military formations under the control of internationally recognized foreign governments or international organizations”.

The crimes will dealt with by the Special Prosecution, which comprises judges and prosecutors from the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, as well as local judges and officials, and which handles with the most sensitive lawcases concerning war crimes, terrorism and organized crime.

The opposition nationalist Vetevendosje movement criticised the law and proposed nine amendments. It said the government needed first to publish a list of organizations it considered terrorist as well as adopt an article defining what “terrorist activity” consists of.

The party also wants the section in the law exempting Kosovars with dual citizenship from its provisions removed, arguing that it creates double standards.

Vetevendosje's amendments were not accepted. Daut Haradinaj, head of the Comission for Internal Affairs and draftee of the law, said it was "abundantly clear" which individuals would be prosecuted.

The government is increasingly concerned about the number of Kosovo citizens fighting in the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

The Interior Ministry estimates that about 300 Kosovars have fought on the side of the Islamic State so far. Police raids last July and August rounded up around 60 individuals thought to have incited, financed, recruited or participated in the conflict.

 

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