Official: UN lifts judge's immunity in Kosovo case
Nov. 14, 2014
PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The United Nations has partially lifted an Italian judge's immunity to allow a probe into alleged corruption inside the European Union's police and justice mission in Kosovo, a senior international official in Kosovo told The Associated Press Friday.
The EU went to the U.N. Secretary General to request that Judge Francesco Florit's immunity be partially lifted a couple of weeks ago, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the case.
The allegations of corruption have tarnished the reputation of the 1,600-strong mission of judges, prosecutors and police sent to Kosovo in 2008 to help the fledgling justice system. When deployed, the mission was hailed as crucial for tackling Kosovo's lingering problems with widespread corruption and intimidation of witnesses in the aftermath of the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.
Dragana Nikolic-Solomon, spokeswoman of the EULEX mission, confirmed immunity was partially lifted for one former staff member but declined to name the official, citing a pending investigation. She said EULEX and Kosovo judicial authorities have been pursuing a joint investigation into the matter since 2013.
By partially lifting the judge's immunity, the U.N. has cleared the way for that investigation. If sufficient evidence emerges for formal charges to made, prosecutors can request that the judge's immunity be lifted in full.
EULEX prosecutor Maria Bamieh claims Florit may have accepted a bribe to secure the release of Kosovo criminals while he served with the EULEX mission. Bamieh, 55, suspected wrongdoing in 2012 when transcripts of intercepted phone calls between a jailed Kosovo minister and intermediaries suggested Florit was willing to secure the release of three suspected killers in return for 300,000 euros ($373,000).
Florit, who has left the mission and returned to Italy, denies the claims.
Bamieh says her bosses ignored her claim and instead sidelined her for whistleblowing. She has subsequently been suspended from the mission over repeated parking offenses.
An independent review ordered by the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, will seek to establish if the mission conspired to cover up the allegations.