Kosovo approves new war crimes court
Kosovo approves new war crimes court

[JURIST] Kosovo’s Parliament [official website] approved the creation of a war crimes court on Monday which will investigate alleged war crimes committed by ethnic Albanians during the 1998-99 guerrilla war. Members of parliament also passed laws to create the office of the prosecution and to finance defense counsel for those accused. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a rebel group of mostly ethnic Albanians who fought for independence from Serbia, has for years been accused of past war crimes and intimidating witnesses. Many former members of the KLA are now high-ranking politicians. Although the court will be under Kosovo law, it will be located [Reuters report] in the Netherlands, funded by the European Union, and the judges and prosecutors will be made up of foreigners. Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] called the amendment a “step toward justice” [press release] but is urging for strong procedures to protect witnesses.

War crimes committed during the Kosovo War have been prosecuted in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], but relations between Serbia and Kosovo remain strained. Last month, 11 Kosovo Albanian men were sentenced [JURIST report] to prison for war crimes. In February 2014, Serbia’s war crimes court convicted [JURIST report] nine former paramilitaries for their involvement in the genocide of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999. Two former Serbian secret service officials were arrested [JURIST report] under suspicion that they planned the 1999 killing of an anti-government journalist. In 2013 Amnesty International [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] the UN Mission in Kosovo of failing to adequately investigate war crimes committed during the conflict. Kosovo held its first local elections [JURIST report] in November 2013 since it seceded from Serbia in 2008. Serbia still does not recognize the secession.