Kosovo president ratifies agreement on war crimes court in Netherlands

Kosovo president ratifies agreement on war crimes court in Netherlands
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia March 1, 2016

President Atifete Jahjaga has ratified an international agreement with the Netherlands on the organization of the institution of the Special Court of Kosovo, according to a February 29 statement on the president’s website.

A special war crimes court will be established in The Hague to address serious crimes potentially committed by ex-guerrillas from the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during and in the immediate aftermath of the Kosovo war of 1999-2000. The move follows pressure from Kosovo's Western backers, the EU and US. The institution’s creation follows a three-year probe by the EU’s Special Investigative Task Force, whose findings will provide the basis for indictments.

The agreement was signed on February 15 by Kosovan foreign minister Hashim Thaci, now the country’s president elect, and the Dutch ambassador to the Balkan country, Gerrie Willems.

The February 29 ratification completes the fulfilment of Kosovo’s international obligations linked with the establishment of the special court.

The KLA was an ethnic Albanian paramilitary organisation that sought the separation of Kosovo from the Serbia-led federation that emerged after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, backed by Western nations.

In January, the Dutch foreign ministry said that this is a sensitive issue in Kosovo, as possible suspects may be seen by parts of Kosovan society as freedom fighters, and witnesses may feel threatened in Kosovo. The ministry explained that was the reason why these cases will be tried outside the country. The request for the court to be located in the Netherlands came from the EU.

The court is expected to begin operations during the course of this year. The premises will be located in the former Europol building, once an extension has been built for a courtroom. The institution will be paid for by EU funds. The new court will be made up of international judges and will be established under Kosovan law.