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UN rights expert urges Kosovo to shift focus towards rule of law

[JURIST] The head of the UN mission in Kosovo said Monday that Kosovo is set to face "complex challenges" this year and should shift focus towards more fundamental issues [statement, DOC] "such as the intrinsic links between post-conflict development, enforcement of the rule of law, and human rights," rather than politics. Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) [official website], stated that support for the rule of law needs to be furthered in a more coordinated effort:

Building respect for the rule of law, and ensuring adequate enforcement, are great challenges in many parts of the world. In Kosovo, these crucial goals are not always being kept high on the agenda where they belong. A strong legislative framework is already in place, including several key laws enacted during just this past year. However, the application of this framework remains inconsistent, the administration of justice unacceptably slow, and instances of political interference common. Corruption at many levels increases public frustration, harms the daily lives of all persons in Kosovo by reducing economic development and opportunity, and undermines faith in the political system. Steadily improving the coordination of support for the rule of law should, I believe, remain a central objective this year. It is also one in which the United Nations remains ready to play a part, within available resources and our mandate.
Tanin also said the nexus between peacebuilding and development must be handled in a way that decreases political tensions, human rights laws need to see better implementation, and the response to mass refugee and migrant flows as well as radicalization is something that needs to be properly planned.

Kosovo has seen continuing issues since the Kosovo War and declaring independence from Serbia. War crimes committed during the Kosovo War have been prosecuted in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], but the establishment of a Kosovan war crimes court in The Hague was announced in January [JURIST report]. However, relations between Serbia and Kosovo remain strained. In February the Basic Court of Pec, a region in western Kosovo, issued an indictment charging 14 Serbians in the region with committing war crimes in 1999 [JURIST report]. In January Oliver Ivanovic, a Serbian politician in Kosovo, was sentenced to nine years in prison after being arrested [JURIST reports] in January 2014 for the murder and torture of Albanian civilians during the 1999 war where Kosovo fought for its independence from Serbia [BBC backgrounders]. In response to the widespread commission of war crimes during the conflict in Kosovo, the EU's justice mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] was created in 2008 [JURIST report] to assist in the effort of bringing perpetrators to justice. A EULEX prosecutor in the Kosovo Special Prosecution Office filed an indictment [JURIST report] against 15 defendants in November 2014 in the EULEX Mitrovica Basic Court. The individuals were accused of war crimes against civilians that occurred at a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) detention center in Likovac in 1998. Fatmir Limaj, an ally of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was acquitted [JURIST report] by EULEX in September 2014 for the third time after his retrial began [JURIST report] in April. Kosovo officially seceded [JURIST report] from Serbia in 2008.

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