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Kosovo lawmakers vote to create war crimes court

[JURIST] Lawmakers in Kosovo on Wednesday voted 89-22 to create an EU-backed court that will investigate crimes committed by ethnic Albanian rebels during the 1998 war with Serbia [BBC backgrounder]. The move follows [AP report] international pressure for Kosovo to open a state investigation into civilian killings committed by the rebel side. The court will be based in Kosovo, though most of the work will be carried out in the Netherlands. Similar to the operations of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], the court will be run by international judges and lawyers. Rebels during the conflict allegedly killed approximately 400 civilians.

War crimes related to the 1998 war have been investigated and prosecuted on many levels by several different bodies. Earlier this month the Associated Press discovered plans [JURIST report] by the EU to instate a war crimes tribunal to deal specifically with allegations focusing on offenses committed by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian rebels. On February 11 Serbia's war crimes court sentenced [JURIST report] nine former paramilitary fighters to long prison terms for their roles in the genocide of ethnic Albanians during the war. In November the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] indicted [JURIST report] fifteen individuals for war crimes including murder, torture and mistreatment of prisoners. In April 2013 Serbia and Kosovo entered [JURIST report] into a historic agreement on EU membership, signaling a reduction in hostility between the two nations. It is widely hoped that this new tribunal which will hold Kosovars responsible for their war crimes will go further to reconciling the two countries.

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