News 24 Apr 14

Serbia Welcomes New Kosovo War Crimes Court

Belgrade said that the establishment of a new Kosovo tribunal with international judges to prosecute war crimes was “good news” that would shift guilt away from Serbia.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Aleksandar Vulin. Photo: Beta.

“This is important and good news for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, but also for all Serbs. With this we will show that Serbian people were not guilty of everything that happened in Kosovo and Metohija,” the head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Aleksandar Vulin, said on Thursday.

The decision to establish the special court to prosecute alleged war crimes including suspected organ-trafficking committed by Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas during and after the 1998-99 conflict is being seen in Serbia as a result of strong pressure on the Pristina authorities by the international community.

Vulin said there was no will in Kosovo to deal with alleged war crimes by former KLA fighters, which was one of the main reasons why the EU and US have pushed for the new tribunal.

He said that the landmark agreement to normalise relations between Belgrade and Pristina, signed in Brussels last year, was also a key factor.

“If there were no Brussels agreement, this decision would not have been made,” Vulin said.

The proposal to establish the new tribunal was approved by the Kosovo parliament on Wednesday, although Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci called it “the biggest injustice and insult which could be done to Kosovo and its people”.

But Thaci also said that Kosovo needed the new court in order to “cleanse” itself of allegations made in a 2010 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty which claimed that former KLA commanders including Thaci ran organised criminal enterprises including an ad-hoc network of detention facilities in Albania and suggested that guerrillas harvested prisoners’ organs.

Serbian deputy prosecutor Bruno Vekaric also welcomed the decision to establish the new court.

“I expect that by establishing this tribunal, the victims will now get answers about all that happened from 1998 until 2000,” Vekaric told Belgrade-based news agency Tanjug.

International campaign group Human Rights Watch praised the Kosovo parliament’s decision as a step towards justice.

“This shows Kosovo’s commitment to the rule of law and justice for past crimes. After the forthcoming elections, the next parliament should promptly approve the court’s statute and pass the necessary statutory and constitutional amendments to make the court operational,” Human Rights Watch’s EU director Lotte Leicht said in a statement.

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Background

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