Kosovo war crimes court to be established in The Hague

Kosovo war crimes court to be established in The Hague

The Dutch government on Friday announced the establishment of a special court being set up in The Hague to investigate and try alleged war crimes committed by ethnic Albanian rebels during and after Kosovo’s 1998-99 guerilla war. According to the government announcement [press release], the court, which is called the Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution and is funded by the European Union, will “try serious crimes allegedly committed in 1999-2000 by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army against ethnic minorities and political opponents.” The court, made up of international judges, will apply Kosovo laws, making it a Kosovan national court administering justice outside of Kosovo rather than an international tribunal. Witnesses against KLA fighters are often reluctant to testify [Reuters report] in Kosovo, as such fighters are often viewed as freedom fighters there. Kosovo’s Parliament approved [JURIST report] the creation of such a war crimes court in August.

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. In July, 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.