[JURIST] The Associated Press has discovered [AP report] plans by the European Union to instate a war crimes tribunal to deal specifically with allegations focusing on offenses committed by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rebels during the 1998 war [BBC backgrounder] with Serbia. During the war, the Albanian rebels were supported by NATO and are still seen by many Kosovars as war heroes, making prosecution of alleged crimes difficult. While the details of the tribunal remain in negotiation between Kosovo and European Union leaders, it appears the proceedings may begin as early as next year. Also, the tribunal itself will reportedly be located in Kosovo, though much of the substantive actions such as hearing witness testimony will take place in the Netherlands. A two-year investigation into the alleged war crimes is expected to conclude in June and to provide the basis for many of the indictments that will be pursued. The crimes being investigated include the unexplained disappearance of approximately 400 Kosovo Serbs near the end of the war and accusations of organ-harvesting committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army. The tribunal has been hailed as a marker of reconciliation and international cooperation in the region.
War crimes related to the 1998 war have been investigated and prosecuted on many levels by several different bodies. 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.