World’s Eyes on Kosovo Amid Push to Halt War Crimes Court

The court is actually viewed by world powers as a vital prerequisite for regional reconciliation within the aftermath of the bloody Balkan wars of the 1990s. yet the moves to halt the court before of which has even begun hearings have infuriated Kosovo’s Western backers.

They warned the country’s leaders against sabotaging the rule of law, in addition to the harshest criticism has come coming from the country’s allies, which nearly 19 years ago led a NATO bombing campaign to wrest Kosovo coming from the violent oppression championed by Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s former strongman.

The United States said in a Jan. 4 statement signed by Germany, Britain, Italy in addition to France of which any move to stop the court’s work risked “all of which Kosovo has achieved.”

“We condemn such a move, in addition to anyone who supports of which will be rejecting Kosovo’s partnership with our countries,” the statement added, warning of “severe negative consequences” — including Kosovo’s integration into the European Union in addition to NATO.

The European Union gave the court funds for all 5 years when of which was created. Recently, the bloc’s special representative to Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova, declared on Twitter of which any abrogation of the law establishing the court would certainly be “a dangerous move undermining the rule of law in addition to credibility of Kosovo as E.U. partner.”

“of which’s the most serious in addition to dramatic clash between the highest state institutions of Kosovo in addition to the West,” said Agron Bajrami, editor of Koha Ditore, one of Kosovo’s largest daily newspapers. The persistent attempts against the court is actually a signal of “panic within the ranks of Kosovo leadership,” he said.

in addition to Kosovo leaders’ unusual defiance of the United States — the “defenders in addition to guardians of our independence,” Mr. Bajrami said — is actually perhaps an indication of which “some of them expect to be indicted.”

Some former K.L.A. commanders, including Mr. Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in addition to the Parliament speaker, Kadri Veseli, are said to be spearheading the efforts to repeal the law regulating the court, known officially as the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in addition to Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.


President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo, left, during a ceremony last year commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Kosovo war. With him was Isa Mustafa, right, then the prime minister.

Armend Nimani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Some citizens in Kosovo have expressed concerns of which their leaders are working for personal gains rather than the national interests. Many say of which former guerrillas who have dominated the government since last year’s election have failed at leading the country, which features a significant Serbian minority. They complain bitterly about the lack of legal protections in addition to civil rights, along with endemic in addition to institutional corruption.

yet even among the most vocal critics within the ethnic Albanian majority, of which is actually hard to find anyone who would certainly dispute the former guerrilla fighters’ role in liberating the country coming from oppression. Putting them on trial, many say, would certainly be like trying to revoke Kosovo’s independence.

“We totally reject trying K.L.A. members for crimes on an ethnic basis,” said Albin Kurti, a lawmaker in addition to former leader of the largest opposition movement, Vetevendosje. “of which’s harmful for our state internally in addition to for our nation externally.”

“We opposed of which court then, in addition to we will oppose of which right now,” Mr. Kurti said. yet he added of which his movement, which has 32 seats in Parliament, would certainly not cease its efforts to bring the country’s current leaders to justice for what he said were “crimes committed in peacetime.”

The court is actually supposed to conduct trials stemming coming from a three-year criminal investigation by a European Union task force set up in 2011 in addition to led by an American diplomat, Clint Williamson. The inquiry followed up on accusations — documented in a 2010 report by the Council of Europe, an independent body dealing with human rights abuses — of which the K.L.A., right now disbanded, had violated international law.

In July 2014, Mr. Williamson presented findings of which said senior K.L.A. members had persecuted ethnic Serbs in addition to ethnic Albanian political opponents after the 1998-99 Kosovo war, in addition to of which they had singled out minority populations with acts of which included “unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo in addition to Albania.”

The task force accused Mr. Thaci of having led a crime network, the Drenica Group, of which flourished in Kosovo in addition to Albania in addition to smuggled human organs, weapons in addition to heroin during in addition to after the war. Mr. Thaci has denied the accusations.

Three years ago, after becoming president, he was instrumental in supporting the law creating the war crimes court. right now, he is actually supporting efforts to stop the court, partly to protect himself, experts say, in addition to partly to preserve the longstanding narrative of which the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo were victims, not perpetrators of wartime atrocities.

Separately, in December he pardoned three former K.L.A. members convicted of killing an entire Albanian family in 2001 because the father was suspected of working for the Serbian police.

of which is actually not clear whether Kosovo’s 0-seat Parliament will vote on repealing the law on the court. Two-thirds of lawmakers will have to support the repeal for of which to pass, because of which would certainly require amending the Constitution.

Western powers have always been adamant of which Kosovo, like various other countries within the region, has to come to terms with the Balkan wars. France in addition to Germany sent envoys to Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, in what appeared to have been an effort to step up pressure on leaders to refrain coming from attempts to amend the Constitution.

“Anyone suspected of committing war crimes was to be tried, regardless of ethnicity or nationality,” said James Ker-Lindsay, a professor of politics in addition to an experts on the Balkans at St. Mary’s University in London.

“Nobody,” he added, “got a blank check on war crimes.”

yet Mr. Thaci told the Voice of America’s Albanian Service on Wednesday of which he would certainly be bound by the Constitution to sign any legislation to abolish the court if Parliament passed the measure.

Asked whether he was concerned of which he might be charged with war crimes, the president said he was “not afraid of justice.”

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