news 01 Feb 18

Special Court is Kosovo’s International Obligation, Says Prosecutor

Kosovo’s prosecutor Drita Hajdari said the country must support the new Hague-based war crimes court in order to fulfil its obligations to the international community.

Die Morina
Drita Hajdari (far right) at a debate about the Special Court on Wednesday in Pristina. Photo: BIRN.

Drita Hajdari told a debate in Pristina on Wednesday evening that Kosovo is obliged to back the new Specialist Chambers, set up in The Hague to prosecute former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters for wartime and post-war crimes.

“The issue of war crimes cannot be an isolated issue for Kosovo alone,” Pristina-based prosecutor Hajdari said.

“Kosovo is part of the world so, when we speak about the Special Court, we cannot avoid [obligations from] international law,” she added.

She said it was painful to hear people suggest that the existence of the Specialist Chambers, which is part of the Kosovo justice system but staffed by internationals, shows the failure of local courts and prosecutors.

“What hurts me are statements by some people claiming that the establishment of the Special Court represents the failure of the Kosovo prosecution and the Kosovo courts, labelling us as unprepared and lacking courage,” she explained.

The debate on the controversial new court, organised by independent media organisation Kosovo 2.0, comes amid continued attempts by Kosovo MPs from the ruling coalition parties to revoke the law which allows the Specialist Chambers to operate.

The US and the EU have expressed strong concern about the attempt to undermine the court and warned that it could isolate Kosovo internationally.

Glauk Konjufca, the head of the opposition Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party’s parliamentary group, alleged that the attempt to stop the Specialist Chambers had been disguised as an initiative by MPs so senior Kosovo officials who used to be top Kosovo Liberation Army figures can escape prosecution.

“Vetevendosje refused to be part of revoking it [the law allowing the Specialist Chambers to operate] in such a dangerous and experimental way, where the preoccupation is about individuals and not about what will harm Kosovo,” Konjufca told the debate on Wednesday.

The initiative to challenge the law came after Kosovo Liberation Army veterans launched a petition calling the new court discriminatory, as it will try former Kosovo Albanian guerrillas, not members of Serbian forces who committed atrocities during the war.

Bekim Blakaj, the executive director of the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo, said that his organisation supports the new court because intimidation has marred attempts to prosecute war crimes within Kosovo.

“During these court processes, we have noticed that whenever there have been alleged cases of crimes committed by former KLA fighters - and in the majority of cases against Albanians, in some cases the victims were also Serbs - families of the victims did not even get up the courage to come and monitor those trials,” Blakaj explained.

He added that threats have been made to witnesses to prevent them from telling the truth - in most cases successfully.

“Witnesses have changed their statements at the main hearing from the investigative stage. Victims have been marginalised and only a few of them have seen justice. Especially those from the Serb community,” he said.

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