News 04 Apr 14

Kosovo President Backs New War Crimes Tribunal

Kosovo’s president said she was willing to cooperate with a proposed new international tribunal to deal with war crimes and alleged organ-trafficking during the late 1990s conflict.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina
Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga. Photo: Beta.

Although it remains unclear where the proposed new special court or tribunal will be located and what its mandate will be, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga said that she was ready to work with international institutions to set it up.

Jahjaga said that “Kosovo’s institutions have demonstrated their readiness to cooperate with international partners”.

“This process is focused on individuals, and is not a judgment of the country’s collective efforts for liberation,” she said, referring to the court which is expected to deal mainly with war crimes committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

However it is not clear whether the initiative can command full political support in Kosovo.

Jahjaga’s comments came several weeks after local media leaked what was reported as being a draft statute for a new international tribunal to prosecute people for “serious crimes” committed from 1998 to 2000 which are linked to a Council of Europe report on alleged organ trafficking by Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas during the conflict.

The alleged draft, which was written by international experts, said that “the tribunal will be an independent ad hoc international court but will not be part of the Kosovo judiciary or judicial system”.

Local media have reported that is expected to have jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes cases, amongst others.

However neither Pristina nor the European Union has confirmed that the alleged draft is genuine or offered any information about the proposed tribunal.

Jahjaga’s comments which appeared to express willingness to cooperate with the new tribunal were made during a telephone conversation with Jonathan Moore, the director of the US State Department’s Office for South Central European Affairs.

Jahjaga told Moore that “Kosovo has shown courage and leadership in dealing with its past”, adding that “Kosovo will continue to engage in efforts that uphold the rule of law”.

Last month, Clint Williamson, lead prosecutor with the task force set up by the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to probe the alleged illicit organ trade, urged the authorities in Pristina to cooperate to find the truth about the allegations “to resolve this matter once and for all”.

EULEX is currently the only authority which has executive powers over war crimes cases in Kosovo, and the Pristina government has so far insisted that any new institution must be located in Kosovo and operate according to its laws.

Referring to the review of EULEX’s mandate, which expires this summer, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said on Friday that he would exchange letters with Brussels with a view to asserting Pristina’s full control over the Kosovo justice system.

“These letters will clearly determine that Kosovo has its own full capacities to lead the system of justice and have executive powers. The EU mission’s role will be more supportive and consultative,” he said.

Addressing the issue of the proposed new tribunal, Thaci said that “Kosovo is ready to deal with its own system of justice on any kind of challenge and with full international support”.

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