Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its fourteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between August and October 2016.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held with officials and international organisations. The Panel met with the Head of the EULEX Mission in Kosovo. Meetings with EULEX representatives are essential for the cooperation between the Panel and EULEX as the HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

The Panel also met with the European Union Special Representative in Kosovo as well as with the European External Service (EEAS) and the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management, (CivCom). The discussions concerned the caseload of the Panel, the implementation of the decisions of the Panel by the Head of Mission and the future legacy of EULEX Kosovo as well as the legacy of the Panel.

This year, the Panel reviewed some twenty-two cases and it has found that EULEX Kosovo committed nine human rights violations. There are currently fifty-seven cases pending before the Panel.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

The Kosovo Peacekeeping Mission, a “Total Failure”?

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On Wednesday, 13 July, the Human Rights Advisory Panel submitted a report about the United Nation Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). In this report, the Panel, whose role is to issue recommendations to the UNMIK, described the Kosovo peacekeeping mission as a “total failure”.

The report strongly criticizes the UNMIK’s handling of civilian grievances in Kosovo, including its failures to investigate disappearances and killings as well as negligence in the mass poisoning of hundreds of displaced Roma which were left in squalid United Nations camps built on land contaminated with lead.

According to the panel, “now that the Panel has concluded its mandate, putting an end to an eight-year process of issuing admissibility decisions, opinions, and recommendations, the Panel is forced to proclaim this process a total failure”.

This conclusion is a source of embarrassment for the United Nations, which regularly assails governments for a lack of accountability and defends victims whose human rights have been violated in conflict zones around the world.

The Panel ends its report  apologizing « profusely to the complainants for its role in this sham ».

The United Nations Peacekeeping Department, which oversees UNMIK, said that UNMIK « values the work of its advisory panel » but emphasizes the fact that the Panel is not a Tribunal.

UNMIK officials had no immediate comment on the report.

Switzerland: Arrests and Possible Extraditions of Two Kosovan War Crimes Suspects

Kosovo WarLast week, the Swiss authorities have arrested two Kosovans wanted by Serbia for suspected war crimes.

The men, whose identity was kept confidential, are suspected of committing war crimes as members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998–99 war.

The first man is suspected of participating in armed attacks in 1998 against two villages situated in Kosovo.

Serbia accuses him of a range of crimes, including murder, rape and conducting illegal arrests.

The second man was arrested during a routine check in Geneva and is suspected of having killed a civilian in 1999.

The Serbian authorities have requested their extradition but both men have refused it.

Moreover, Kosovo insists that it should handle cases of suspected war crimes committed by Kosovan citizens, and not Serbia.

In that vein, the Kosovo Justice Minister sent a letter to his Swiss counterpart to object to any plans to extradite the men to Serbia.

The Swiss Justice Ministry confirmed that the Swiss Justice Minister had received a letter, and had responded, addressing his concerns.

Annual Report of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has published its Annual Report for the period from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015.

The Report contains information on the mandate and procedures of the Panel as well as a detailed account of its activities over the last year. It also reports on the complaints the Panel dealt with in 2015 and the case-law it developed reviewing those cases.

The HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its Thirteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between June and December 2015.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held with officials and international organisations.

The Panel met with the new EULEX Chief of Staff. Meetings with EULEX representatives are essential for the cooperation between the Panel and EULEX as the HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

The Panel also met with representatives of various bodies, including the new Ombudsperson of Kosovo, as well as local authorities or representatives of the Serbian Government.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

Kosovo Court to Open in The Hague

Kosovo WarA new special court will be set up in The Hague to try those responsible for serious crimes committed in Kosovo during the 1999-2000 war, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported yesterday.

The Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution, which is the official name of the court, will try crimes allegedly committed by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against ethnic minorities and political opponents.

The crimes include illegal trafficking of prisoners’ organs and other serious crimes, as indicated in a 2011 report from the Council of Europe.

The Court will apply Kosovan national law and it is therefore not an international tribunal, but a national court that administers justice outside Kosovo. However, its judges will be international.

The decision to locate the court in The Hague was made following consultation between the EU and the Kosovan and Dutch authorities. Parliament in Kosovo approved the creation of the tribunal last year.

The issue is a sensitive issue in Kosovo as some of the possible suspects may be seen by sections of Kosovan society as freedom fighters, and witnesses may feel threatened in Kosovo. Moreover, some of the possible suspects may include individuals currently in the Kosovo government.

The Netherlands indicated that it believes it has a special responsibility to offer the court a home as the host country of a number of international and other special criminal courts and tribunals.

It is expected that the Court will officially open later this year. The Court will initially be based in a temporary location but will eventually be housed at the former building of EUROPOL.

Kosovo Votes for New War Crimes Court

Yesterday, Kosovo’s parliament voted in favour of changing the constitution, allowing for the creation of an ad hoc war crimes court, to try ethnic Albanian former guerillas for alleged war crimes committed during and shortly after the war with Serbia in 1999.

Kosovo Liberation Army fighters ©AP

Kosovo Liberation Army fighters ©AP

The 120-seat legislature voted 82-5 in favor of the change, with several abstentions.

During the war, Kosovo Albanian rebels fought to make Kosovo independent from Serbia. In 2010, a special investigation team concluded that there was hard evidence of kidnapping, torture and murder by the rebels.

The report accused some members of the ethnic Albanian insurgency, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of abductions, beatings, summary executions, and in some cases, the forced removal of human organs on Albanian territory during and after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. The report named some individuals currently in the Kosovo government, including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

At the time of the conclusions of the investigation, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established in 1993 to try all war crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, did not take on any more new cases.

On Friday, Kosovo’s government had asked parliament to reconsider its rejection of an ad hoc court, after parliament had voted against creating the court on 26 June. Many Kosovo Albanians see the war crimes court as an attempt to tarnish their 1998-99 guerrilla war against Serbia’s repressive rule.

The new court will most likely be located in The Hague, although the Dutch government is still waiting for an official request from Kosovo.

EU Human Rights Review Panel Annual Report

The European Union Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has just released its fifth Annual Report. As in previous years, the Panel continued throughout the reporting period with its review of complaints of human rights violations by EULEX Kosovo in the conduct of its executive mandate in the justice, police and customs sectors.

Family member from Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa, 25 March 2014/ Enisa Kasemi ©EULEX

Family member from Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa, 25 March 2014/ Enisa Kasemi ©EULEX

In 2014, the Panel conducted five sessions and reviewed 35 complaints and witnessed a considerable increase in its case-load with the receipt of 42 new complaints. The Report details the findings of these cases and of the recommendations submitted to the Head of Mission of EULEX Kosovo to address violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Panel and its Secretariat also continued with its outreach campaign in order to disseminate information about its mandate, including a TV information campaign. It concentrated its efforts primarily on the Kosovo judiciary, human rights and legal aid NGOs, civil society representatives as well as religious bodies in Kosovo.

EULEX is deployment of EU police and civilian resources to support Kosovo on its path to a greater European integration in the rule of law area. In April 2009, EULEX became fully operational. The EU Joint Action of February 2008 and Council Decision of June 2010 and June 2012 provide the legal basis for the Mission. EULEX works within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. EULEX is supported by all 28 European Union Member States and five contributing States (Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States), and its mandate runs until June 2016.

The Annual Report – 2014 of the EU Human Rights Review Panel is available in the Albanian, Serbian and English languages.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

Fate of 1,655 people in Kosovo Still Unresolved

Kosovo victimsThe fate of 1,655 people gone missing in Kosovo during the clashes in 1998 and 1999 remains unresolved, the Working Group in charge of missing persons stated at its 38th meeting on Tuesday.

In the course of ten years of its existence, the Working Group in charge of cases of persons gone missing in Kosovo managed to reduce the number of unsolved cases from 3,200 to 1,655, Chair of the Working Group Lina Milner said.

She noted that the key condition for progress in solving the fate of the missing is embodied in a continuous and constructive dialogue based on humanitarian grounds, without political rhetoric from Belgrade and Pristina.

Milner noted that 68 cases of missing persons have been solved this year and added that considerable progress has been made, especially in terms of exhumation of the grave site at Rudnica near Raska (southern part of central Serbia), as well as victim identification and delivery of the remains to the families. Continue reading

Kosovo: Discussions over a Special Court for KLA leaders

Special Representative Farid Zarif. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Special Representative Farid Zarif. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Briefing the United Nations Security Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Friday, Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Farid Zarif said that while great strides have been made since last year toward normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, close vigilance remains essential to safeguard achievements and continue dialogue.

Zarif expressed his satisfaction that the trial of five Kosovo Serbs, charged with war crimes and murder, began its proceedings on Tuesday at the Basic Court in Mitrovica. “As I continually stress the crucial importance of respecting judicial independence, I cannot but note that public confidence in the system will be enhanced greatly when justice is perceived to be conducted professionally and expeditiously,” said Mr. Zarif. Additionally, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Investigative Task Force released a statement on 29 July of findings which represents another “milestone in strengthening the rule of law and healing scars of war.”

The issue of a special court to try former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes was expected to feature in the UN Security Council session. According to the Serbian news agency Tanjug, Ban Ki-moon’s report calls on Pristina and the European Union to form the special court at the beginning of the next year at the latest. The establishment of a special court to handle war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), in 1999 was asked by Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s foreign minister. Dacic warned that acquittal due to lack of evidence caused by witness intimidation must never again be allowed for individuals responsible for the crimes. All those involved in intimidation of witnesses also have to be prosecuted and found guilty, he said.