News 10 Jan 18

Kosovo War Victims Slam MPs’ Bid to Stop Court

Survivors of the 1999 Kosovo war and rights campaigners criticised attempts by MPs in Pristina to stop the new Specialist Chambers, which will try former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters.

Filip Rudic, Dia Morina
BIRN
Belgrade, Pristina
A KLA veteran protesting against the Specialist Chambers. Photo: Atdhe Mulla.

War victims’ groups and Pristina-based rights campaigners criticised recent attempts by MPs in Pristina to revoke a law which allows the new Kosovo Specialist Chambers to operate.

The president of the Association of Missing and Kidnapped Persons from Kosovo and Metohija, Ranko Djinovic, said that repealing the law would be an “injustice”.

“It would be the greatest insult for the families [of victims], and it must not happen,” Djinovic said.

Milorad Trifunovic, coordinator of another, similarly-named group, the Association of Families of Kidnapped and Missing Persons, said he expected a lot from the court, and that it will not only prosecute those who killed Serbs but also “many Albanians”.

“We expect the court to take justice in its hands, and present justice to the public and the victims’ families,” he added.

Trifunovic said that he thought the MPs’ attempt to revoke the law would fail.

“I don’t think this is going to happen. It’s not in anyone’s interest - neither Serbs’ nor Albanians’,” he said.

Shkemb Manaj, the son of Shaban Manaj, who was the head of the Democratic League of Kosovo branch in the town of Istog/Istok until he was killed in July 2000, also said he hoped that the new court would not be stopped.

“I expect that the politically-motivated murder of my father... and other politically motivated killings, are going be handled by the Special Court because some of them are within the timeframe and subject jurisdiction,” Manaj said.

The court’s jurisdiction will cover offences committed between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2000.

Manaj described the initiative to abolish the law on the court, which he believes has the credibility to shed light on political killings durimg that period, as “bad news for Kosovo” and an attempt to evade justice.

MPs on December 22 staged a dramatic attempt to revoke the law that allows the Specialist Chambers to operate, but under strong pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, their bid to put it to a vote was unsuccessful.

The initiative to revoke the law was supported by the country’s ruling coalition parties - the Kosovo Democratic Party, PDK, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, and the Initiative for Kosovo, NISMA.

Parliamentary chairman Kadri Veseli, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, said on Monday that MPs’ attempts to stop the Court would not succeed. However, the initiative still has support in parliament.

Kosovo’s Humanitarian Law Centre described the initiative as “a reckless and disappointing act, which, if implemented, will brutally undermine the process of establishment of the rule of law in Kosovo”.

The HLC said that this would “rightfully be perceived as an obstruction to the investigations, as it is aimed at preventing the punishment of perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity and at debilitating the process of transitional justice in Kosovo, as it indirectly promotes a culture of impunity”.

It also argued that “justice for the victims should not remain hostage to Kosovo’s political immaturity”.

The initiative to challenge the law governing the new Specialist Chambers came after Kosovo Liberation Army veterans launched a petition calling for it to be changed because it was “discriminatory”, as the court will try former Kosovo Albanian guerrillas and not members of Serbian forces.

The Specialist Chambers will hear cases arising from an EU Special Investigative Task Force report which said that unnamed KLA officials should face indictments for a “campaign of persecution” against Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians.

Although based in The Hague, the Specialist Chambers is legally part of Kosovo’s judicial system, but independent from the Kosovo judiciary and staffed by internationals.

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