Balkans News

Possible Abolition Of War Crimes Court In Kosovo Angers The US

Image by David Liuzzo

The initiative by a group of Kosovar MPs to abolish the Kosovo war crimes court, based in The Hague, has angered not only the US Embassy, which issued some tough statements on Friday 29 November, but also the US Department of State itself. President Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, and Kosovo Assembly Speaker Kadri Veseli were urged to abide by their commitments to the work of the Court.

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“We call on political leaders of the Republic of Kosovo and the Deputies of the Kosovo Assembly to maintain their commitment to the work of the Specialized Chambers and to leave unchanged the authority and jurisdiction of the court,” the State Department statement said.

“The United States is deeply depressed by the recent efforts of the Kosovo Assembly to abolish the Special Chambers of the Special Court, a court established to hear allegations of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious crimes committed during 1998-2000,” continued the declaration of December 30 by the US State Department.

Secretary Rex Tillerson said on December 21, “There has been no justice in the Balkans and we remain committed to supporting justice for the victims. We applaud the moral courage of Kosovo’s political leaders when they adopted the law and amended it in the Constitution on 2015, when the court was established, and we are now strongly urging current leaders and deputies of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo not to disrupt this achievement by abolishing the court now or in the future.”

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The special court of Kosovo is headed by Bulgarian lawyer Ekaterina Trendafilova. The entity is not well received by the people of Kosovo who see the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation War as heroes, but has received extensive support from Serbia who believe this court will serve justice.

The initiative for its merger comes after a delay of several months. The Constitutional Court of the Kosovo Specialized Chambers approved Wednesday a decision to approve the rules of procedure and evidence for the new Special Court, allowing it to raise the first indictments against former fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The Speaker of the Special Court, Ekaterina Trendafilova, said in June of 2017 that the court would be fully functional and ready to start court proceedings after a week. “Following the entry into force of the rules within seven days from today, there will be no legal obstacle to obtaining or filing a lawsuit by the Special Prosecutor’s Office,” Trendafilova was quoted in the statement given at that time.

Senior figures of the Kosovo Liberation Army are expected to be indicted and tried in court for alleged crimes committed during and after the war against Serbian forces. The alleged crimes include murder, abduction, illegal detention, and sexual assault. The Special Court of Kosovo consists of international judges and prosecutors, although it functions under Kosovo’s laws.

Ekaterina Trendafilova visited Kosovo several days ago, where she held meetings with political leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said: “The question that should be asked is why they did not meet with the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo, when the Tribunal is in Kosovo, while it is denying and ignoring the cooperation with the institutions of Kosovo that have 100% co-operation with Belgrade?”

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