News 05 Jul 07

Minister Says Macedonia Ready for Return of War Crimes Cases

Skopje_ Macedonia is prepared to receive the four war crimes cases that a UN tribunal in The Hague wants returned to the country’s courts, Justice Minister Mihajlo Manevski said Thursday.

“Macedonia is prepared to take the four cases from The Hague tribunal, but the accent is put on preparation of personnel and the ability to ensure implementation of international standards," Manevski told reporters.

A courtroom and prison cells in Sutka prison in Skopje already meet international standards, Manevski said.

On Tuesday, Carla Del Ponte, the UN’s chief prosecutor for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, said in Brussels that she is ready to transfer the cases but awaits a “green light” from the Macedonian government to do so.

The four cases involve crimes allegedly committed by former Albanian guerrillas against ethnic Macedonians during fighting in 2001. The UN tribunal decided in 2005 not to start proceedings itself and return the cases to the domestic courts for hearings.

Since then, Macedonian governments have worked to postpone receiving the cases due to fears the issue could spark fresh ethnic tensions.

The cases were the only ones before the UN tribunal in which ethnic Macedonians were victims. The trial of former Interior Minister Ljube Boskoski and police officer Johan Tarculovski, who are accused of killing Albanian civilians in Ljuboten in 2001, started in mid-April.

Macedonia’s ethnic Albanians argue that a 2001 amnesty law exempts all involved in the ethnic conflict. Ethnic Macedonians insist the legislation does not exculpate those suspected of war crimes.

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