bne IntelliNews -
The European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo did not try to cover up corruption allegations against its members, according to a report from an independent legal expert appointed to investigate the claims. However, the report by law professor Jean-Paul Jacqué, released on April 14, criticises both the handling of the investigation and the management of the EULEX mission.
Jacqué was appointed by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in November to review the implementation of the EULEX mandate. His appointment followed reports in Kosovan newspaper Koha Ditore that senior EULEX officials had taken bribes in return for acquitting or dropping charges against several defendants.
British prosecutor Maria Bamieh went to the local and international press with detailed allegations of a cover-up. In a October 2014 interview with EUobserver, Bamieh claimed that EULEX had failed to intervene when two Kosovans were convicted in a triple murder case on evidence “that would never stand up in a British court”.
While concluding that the cover-up allegations were unfounded, Jacqué commented that they had been handled badly, and that a speedier launch of an investigation could have averted the scandal.
“An investigation should have been launched at the outset. This would have prevented the issues that later arose in connection with the use of secret and special procedures, which fuelled suspicions of a cover up that fortunately turned out to be unfounded,” the report says.
Jacqué also criticises the management of the EULEX mission, singling out in particular the lack of training for prosecutors and judges from outside Kosovo and the different “traditions and ethics” brought by officials from different EU member states.
“While the purpose is to uphold the highest European standards, those words are meaningless in as much as standards differ between member states, although minimum rules have been established by consensus.” Other criticisms include short postings and poor oversight.
While the focus of the report is on EULEX, it is also critical of the Kosovan judicial system. “In its current state Kosovo’s judicial system still does not seem capable of meeting the challenges of corruption and the organised crime associated with it.”
“Corruption is omnipresent” and “the judicial sector is not excluded”, the report adds.
The allegations have harmed the reputation of EULEX, the EU’s largest overseas mission, with a staff of around 1,600. It was set up after Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with the aim of helping the newly created country build an independent judiciary and other state institutions, and maintain the rule of law. Its role also includes training Kosovan officials.
“At the institutional level, this case has done considerable harm to the EULEX mission,” the report says. “Set up to safeguard the rule of law, it has been accused of undermining the rule of law. Its credibility has been damaged to the point that its actions will henceforth often be tainted with suspicion and every decision to convict or not to convict will risk being criticised on the basis of possible corruption.”
Jacqué further speculates that, “Perhaps this situation has even been knowingly exploited by those who wish [the EULEX mission] to leave.”
Mogherini said in a brief statement on April 14 that she had received the report from Jacqué, and forwarded it to the European Parliament and EU member states.
“The services are studying the report carefully and are looking at the best ways to address the recommendations contained in it,” Mogherini’s statement said.
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