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.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its ninth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions over the last two months.

The newsletter also highlights the visit of students from the Law Faculty of the University of Essex. The Panel was given the opportunity to brief students on its mandate, work and case-load.

An outreach campaign was also recently organized by meeting with the Coordinator of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija in northern Mitrovica on 26 June 2014 to brief on the activities of the Panel and, inter alia, in furtherance of the public outreach campaign in the northern Mitrovica region.

The HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in

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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.

Last Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its eighth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions over the last two months.

The newsletter also highlights the Panel’s visit to the Law Faculty of the AAB University of Pristina where the Panel was given the opportunity to brief students on its mandate, work and case-load.

An outreach campaign was also recently organized by meeting with the Mayor of Pristina as well as with the Director of the Kosovo Police and the Director of the European Centre for Minority Issues in Kosovo.

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.

Kosovo Parliament Approves Creation of Special Court

Members of parliament take the oath during its first session in Pristina

Kosovo Parliament

Yesterday, the Kosovo parliament approved the creation of an EU-backed special court for serious abuses committed during and after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. Parliament approved the special court by a vote of 82 to 22, with 2 abstentions.

The special court will adjudicate cases against individuals based on a 2010 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty. 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.

Thaci, who was the political chief of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, has rejected the allegations as an attempt to tarnish KLA’s reputation.

The Marty report said most of the alleged crimes occurred after June 1999, when NATO’s bombing campaign forced Belgrade to end the war and withdraw Serb forces from Kosovo.

The special court will operate within the Kosovo justice system but, prosecutors and judges will be international. It will have one seat in Kosovo and another abroad, possibly in the Netherlands, which will deal with protected witnesses.

An estimated 10,000 people died during the 1998-99 war, the great majority of them being ethnic Albanians. About 1,700 people are still missing.

Report of the Human Rights Advisory Panel

HRAP

The Human Rights Advisory Panel rendered its annual report for 2013. The Panel issued a number of important opinions in the past year, deciding whether and to what extent facts alleged by the complainants had led to different violations of human rights by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Those opinions particularly deserving of attention came from cases involving allegations of a lack of an adequate police investigation in connection with abductions, disappearances, and killings related to procedural obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as allegations of violations of Article 3 of the Convention against victims and close relatives. The importance of the right to truth has also been recognized by the Panel.

In these opinions, as well as in other cases, the Panel has continued to elaborate its own jurisprudence, taking into consideration the international human rights standards expressed in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and other international bodies, including, in particular, the UN Human Rights Committee. Continue reading