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EU Kosovo court issues guilty verdict in first war crimes case

[JURIST] A court under the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website, JURIST news archive] reached its first verdict [EULEX report] Tuesday, sentencing Kosovo Albanian Gani Gashi to 17 years in jail for murder, attempted murder, and grievous bodily harm. A three-judge panel, composed of two EULEX judges and a judge from Kosovo, found Gashi guilty [Reuters report] of crimes committed during the Kosovo-Serbian conflict in 1998-1999. The sentence is a milestone [B92 report] for the EULEX court, which is charged with aiding the restoration of the rule of law in Kosovo. In a statement issued by Chief EULEX prosecutor Theo Jacobs, the verdict was heralded as symbolic for the future of the EULEX court in Kosovo: "This trial shows that EULEX is serious about investigating and prosecuting war crimes cases whenever they took place, as long as we have enough evidence for a successful prosecution to proceed."

The court has had a difficult beginning since the EULEX formally began operations [JURIST report] in December. On Tuesday, the trial of two Serbian defendants was derailed [JURIST report] by hundreds of Serbian protesters and postponed indefinitely. Kosovo controversially seceded from Serbia [JURIST report] in February 2008, and its new constitution [text] went into effect [JURIST report] in June. Kosovo's Declaration of Independence from Serbia was met with support from the EU, the US, and from many other countries. Serbia formally condemned the secession [text, JURIST report], citing its illegality under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

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