Recently appointed Kosovo war crimes prosecutor David Schwendiman of the Special Investigative Task Force [official website] vowed [Reuters report] to investigate all war crime suspects, “fairly, vigorously and without fear” on Thursday. Many of the suspected offenders are former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and now hold important political positions. Additionally, many are viewed by ethnic Albanians as freedom fighters. It is suspected that President Hashim Thaçi may have played a role in war crimes committed against Serbs during the conflict. The court, established [JURIST report] in January, will operate under the authority of the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website]. Although the court will be under Kosovo law, it will be located in the Netherlands, funded by the EU, and the judges and prosecutors will be internationals. Registrar Fidelma Donlon said the court hoped to commence judicial activity in the first half of 2017.
Failure to fully prosecute war crimes committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict contribute to the continued strain between Serbian and Kosovo relations. EULEX was established to aid Kosovo in the rule of law application when it comes to instances such as war crimes that may cause conflict with in the region. In June the Assembly of Kosovo voted to extend [JURIST report] the EULEX mandate for two years. The move comes after the EU voted to extend and fully fund the mandate until 2018. Kosovo’s Parliament approved [JURIST report] the creation of the special war crimes court in August of last year.