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News 27 Oct 17

MPs Ask to See Serb Judges’ Oaths to Kosovo

Opposition MPs demanded to see the oaths taken by Kosovo Serb judges and prosecutors this week to find out if they pledged loyalty to the Kosovo state’s constitution and laws.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina

Kosovo Serb prosecutors and judges during the swearing-in ceremony with President Thaci. Photo: Kosovo Presidency

Opposition lawmakers demanded on Thursday that the presidency releases a video of Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony for new Kosovo Serb judges and prosecutors that was closed to media.

The MPs said the lack of transparency raises questions over the content of the oath that the Serb judges and prosecutors took when they were sworn in by President Hashim Thaci.

“I have raised this issue because I'm concerned that the judges and prosecutors appointed by the president have either taken no oath, or have taken a modified oath to eliminate the Republic of Kosovo as a state to which they are expressing loyalty and the obligation to implement the constitution and applicable laws,” independent MP Korab Sejdi told BIRN on Thursday.

Sejdiu, who is also an Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK member of the Assembly Committee on Legislation, said there no way to confirm whether or not the judges and prosecutors sworn in on Tuesday feel obliged to uphold Kosovo’s constitution and laws.

“Therefore it is simply a concern that would disappear with the publication of a video by the president’s office in which the oath given by the judges and prosecutors in question would be clearly seen, as happened with all other judges and prosecutors who are part of the judiciary of the Republic of Kosovo,” he explained.

Albulena Haxhiu, a Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) MP and the head of Assembly Committee on Legislation, said that the process has been kept out the public eye, and also alleged that the choices of judges and prosecutors had been made “with the approval of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic”.

“We require evidence - the [appointment] decree, the oath taken by the judges and prosecutors and all the accompanying documents,” Haxhiu told BIRN on Thursday.

Responding to the claims, Justice Minister Abelard Tahiri said that the presidential decree was in line with Kosovo’s laws.

“This decree constitutes the implementation of the [2015] Brussels Agreement on Justice [between Kosovo and Serbia],” Tahiri said.

BIRN asked the president’s office to comment on the opposition’s claims, but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

President Hashim Thaci appointed 40 judges and 13 new state prosecutors from non-majority communities by decree on Tuesday, after they did not show up on October 17, the date initially agreed for the swearing-in to take place.

The agreement on justice, which is intended to integrate the justice system in the Serb-run north of Kosovo with the system in Kosovo generally, was signed in February 2015 in Brussels.

It foresees the implementation of Kosovo laws and a unitary justice system over the whole of the country.

Haxhiu also claimed on Thursday that part of the Agreement on Justice between Kosovo and Serbia has been concealed from the public.

She alleged that it said that all the judgments from the parallel courts set up by Serbia in northern Kosovo should now be accepted as legal.

“On Tuesday, at a meeting of the Committee, I presented a document that was kept hidden and is related to the recognition of the judgments issued by the illegal bodies of Serbia in Kosovo. This is scandalous and somebody should be held accountable for this,” she said.

BIRN could not reach the justice minister for a response to her claim.

NOTE: This article was amended on October 27, 2017 to state that Korab Sejdi is an independent MP.

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