[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] began oral arguments on Tuesday regarding Serbia's request for an advisory opinion [text, PDF] on Kosovo's declaration of independence [JURIST report] in 2008. The advisory proceedings will include arguments from 29 additional countries, including the five member-states of the UN Security Council [official website], debating whether Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed secession complied with international law. Serbia argues that UN Resolution 1244 [text, PDF], which ended the war in Kosovo, solidified the country's boundaries, which included the southern region of Kosovo. Kosovo argues that the resolution was not meant to exclude the opportunity for succession. Kosovo told the ICJ court that "Kosovo's independence is irreversible and that will remain the case, not only for the sake of Kosovo, but also for the sake of sustainable regional peace and security." While Serbia is backed by the majority of UN countries, including Russia, Kosovo has the support of the US and most European Union countries. The outcome of these proceedings is nonbinding but will be closely watched by countries with large breakaway regions, such as the Basque region in Spain. Spain, which has refused to recognize Kosovo's independence, will be arguing on behalf of Serbia. The reintegration of Kosovo is an unlikely outcome, but Serbian President Boris Tadic believes that these proceedings create a platform for a discussion on the overlying issue of fragmentation [BBC backgrounder] in the Balkans. In an interview [text] with BBC News, Tadic said:
This isn't about reintegrating Kosovo within Serbia. This isn't about the independence of Kosovo. It is about starting from a blank page to talk with good will to find a sustainable, compromise solution. … The history of the Balkans is all about fragmentation and partition. … We've suffered a lot through that. That's why we must find a totally different approach.
Earlier this year, in an effort to further the legitimacy of their independence, Kosovo began operations of its own judicial system. In March, more than 100 Serbian judges, prosecutors, and legal professionals prevented the opening [JURIST report] of the first EU-backed trial in Kosovo by protesting in front of the Mitrovica court house. A panel of three judges had been set to preside over a criminal case involving two Serbian defendants. As Serbia and Kosovo's Serbian population have refused to accept Kosovo's independence, the demonstration was intended to bar the EU from holding trial [B92 report] in Kosovo except under UN laws. The trial court was established by European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website], an EU mission designed to guide Kosovo toward independence in accordance with the Rule of Law. Citing security concerns, the court has not yet rescheduled the trial.