US presses Kosovo against amending war crimes court law
PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Kosovo says the country still needs an outside mechanism like the special war crimes court as its justice system is not yet capable of handling high-case profiles and witnesses are too subject to intimidation.
Ambassador Greg Delawie on Wednesday was urging parliament not to pass an initiative from 43 Kosovo lawmakers to do away with a law on the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.
“Certain individuals who fought for the just cause of Kosovo’s freedom committed egregious crimes against others, for which they must be held accountable,” the ambassador said.
After apparent pressure from Delawie and other Western ambassadors, some opposition parties boycotted a meeting and parliament’s leadership did not have enough lawmakers to decide on when the initiative should be voted on.
In December, some Kosovo lawmakers tried to amend the law, seeking to extend its jurisdiction over Serbs, their former adversaries in the 1998-1999 war for independence.
The Hague, Netherlands-based court has jurisdiction over potential war crimes suspects in Kosovo, be they fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army or other Kosovo citizens, for alleged war crimes during the 1998-1999 war and afterward. A law creating the court was passed in 2015 as a result of U.S. and European pressure.
Kosovo detached from Yugoslavia following a three-month NATO air war in 1999 to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. It then declared unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by 114 states but not by Serbia.
Delawie said “our intervention in 1999 was based on the idea that war crimes against anyone, anywhere, were an assault on international justice.”
Now, however, former KLA commanders during the 1998-1999 war hold top positions in Kosovo’s administration and fear the law may send them to jail.
The war crimes court has yet to hear any cases.