News 29 Dec 17

Kosovo MPs Vow to Continue Challenge to War Court

After a failed attempt to revoke the law that allows the new Hague-based Specialist Chambers to try former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters, MPs who backed the initiative vowed not to give up.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers HQ in The Hague. Photo: Europol.

Kosovo MPs who signed a request to call an extraordinary parliamentary session to revoke the law that allows the new Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers to prosecute former Kosovo Liberation Army members for wartime and post-war crimes said on Friday that they will not give up on their demand despite failing last week.

Nait Hasani, an MP from the Kosovo Democratic Party, PDK, whose name was the first on the list of 43 MPs who signed the controversial request to call a session of the Kosovo Assembly on December 22, said they will press ahead with the initiative.

“We are waiting for a decision from the Assembly presidency about whether they will call a meeting or not. If we don’t get any answer, we will try to find some forms we can use and initiate our request again. We will not give up,” Hasani told BIRN.

The Assembly presidency could not proceed with a parliamentary session that day as there was no quorum at the meeting to move the issue to a vote.

The initiative to challenge the law governing the new Specialist Chambers came after Kosovo Liberation Army veterans launched a petition calling for it to be changed because it was “discriminatory”, as the court will try former Kosovo Albanian guerrillas and not members of Serbian forces.

The initiative was strongly opposed by the US and EU.

President Hashim Thaci on Wednesday described the new court as a “historic injustice” against Kosovo Albanians and said that although he did not encourage MPs to back the initiative, he would have signed it into law if the Kosovo Assembly voted for it.

MP Daut Haradinaj, who also is the brother of PM Ramush Haradinaj and fought with the Kosovo Liberation Army, warned meanwhile that arrests by the new Specialist Chambers would cause a huge backlash from former KLA members.

Of the 43 MPs out of a total of 120 who signed the request to revoke the law, Islam Pacolli from Alliance New Kosovo, AKR, withdrew his signature, saying that he wasn’t correctly informed about it.

The head of NISMA (Initiative for Kosovo) party’s parliamentary group, Bilall Sherifi, denied that the some of the party’s MPs had withdrawn their signatures too.

“Signatures are individual. Each MP who signed has the right to withdraw it. But so far there is no MP who has said they will withdraw a signature,” Sherifi told BIRN on Thursday.

BIRN attempted to contact the Kosovo Assembly’s secretary, Ismet Krasiqi, to confirm if any MPs had officially withdrawn their signatures, but did not get a reply by the time of publication.

The opposition Vetevendosje (Self-Determination), which did not attend the Assembly meeting about the MPs’ request, also did not respond to a question about whether it had changed its stance.

The Specialist Chambers, which is expected to try senior Kosovo Liberation figures for alleged crimes committed during and after the war in 1999, including killings, abductions, illegal detentions and sexual violence, is expected to issue its first indictments in the new year.

Justice Minister Abelard Tahiri, who for years served as adviser to Thaci, and was the only official who met the Specialist Chambers’ president Ekaterina Trendafilova on her recent visit to Pristina, told KTV on Thursday evening that “as minister, I’m obliged to respect any decision that comes from MPs”.

Asked whether his former boss Thaci was the initiator of the attempt to revoke the law, Tahiri responded: “Thaci has spent an entire lifetime contributing to Kosovo and under no circumstances I think that the president could take actions that endanger the support of our allies. He was one of two or three people who contributed most to Kosovo.”

The Specialist Chambers will hear cases arising from an EU Special Investigative Task Force report which said that unnamed KLA officials should face indictments for a “campaign of persecution” against Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians believed to be collaborators with the Belgrade regime.

The report was commissioned after the Council of Europe published an inquiry in 2011 which alleged that some senior Kosovo officials, including Thaci, were responsible for various human rights abuses.

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.

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