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Kosovo Postpones Vote on Wartime Crime Court

After being scheduled for Friday, a vote in the Kosovo parliament on amendments to the constitution to allow the establishment of the special court on crimes comitted during 1990s war was postponed for "technical reasons".

With 78 votes for, 2 against and 1 abstention, the assembly postponed the vote and did not schedule a new session.

The head of the parliamentary group of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, Adem Grabovci, said technical obstacles prevented the vote.

"Owing to the lack of opportunity to see the materials that what we have to vote on, we propose that this session be postponed," Grabovci said.

The Prime Minister, Isa Mustafa, and his deputy coalition partner, Hashim Thaci, were not present at the session.

Albin Kurti, from the opposition Self-determination party, which opposed the creation of the Special Court, said the session was put on hold because there were not enough MPs to approve the amendments.

"These amendments were always notorious. And this time it's no different," Kurti said.

However, Slavko Simic, MP from the Serbian List, said formation of the court was an international obligation for Kosovo and was being postponed for political reasons.

The adoption of the amendments were a first step to enable the formation of the chamber, which would function under Kosovo law, but most of whose proceedings would be conducted abroad and all of whose judicial structures would be composed of international staff.

Following adoption of the amendments, parliament needs to adopt a special law that will regulate the functioning of the court.

The draft law is currently still being negotiated between the Kosovo government and the European Union.

The date of the vote has already been postponed several times, but under pressure from the international community was due to take place on Friday.

During the session on Friday, hundreds of war veterans took to the streets of Pristina, protesting against the planned vote and the recent ruling of a Mitrovica court which jailed 11 ex-KLA fighters, including top politicians Sylejman Selimi and Sami Lushtaku, for war crimes in 1998 and 1999.

Hundreds of war veterans chanting "KLA, KLA" gathered in front of parliament calling on MPs not to back amendments which would lead to creation of the Special Court.

The head of the war veterans associations, Smajl Elezaj, said the court would be damaging to the sovereignty of Kosovo.

"MPs should leave the parliament, which would make it impossible to vote on the amendments that would bring about the Special Court," Elezaj said.

The new court is to be sited in The Netherlands and a number of senior KLA figures are expected to be indicted for crimes committed during and after the 1998-99 war with Serbian forces.

It will hear cases arising from the recent European Union Special Investigative Task Force report, which said that unnamed KLA officials carred out a "campaign of persecution" against Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians believed to be collaborators with the Belgrade regime.

The alleged crimes include killings, abductions, illegal detentions and sexual violence.

[Source: By Marija Ristic and Petrit Collaku, Balkan Transitional Justice, Birn, Pristina, 29May15]

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The Question of Kosovo
small logoThis document has been published on 03Aug15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.