Justice, justice you shall pursue

Albatrit Matoshi of Pristina daily Zeri asked me some questions Monday. My answers were published today:

Q: Is there a legal basis to establish the United Nations Special Court for crimes in Kosovo if Kosovo institutions fail to do such a thing?

A: I suppose the international community could try to impose a new court, as it did with ICTY. But I doubt that would happen.  In principle, I would like to see the Kosovo institutions handle as much of the process of investigating and prosecuting war crimes as possible. But the will and means seem to be lacking.

Q: Do you think it is clear the role of the Special Court and the fact that who will work on it, which will be the role of the current judges of EULEX or even of international judges?

A: Nothing is clear to me about the Special Court yet, as so far as I know many issues have yet to be decided and publicized. Ask the EU, which has taken on this issue.

Q: Do you think that eventually the special court will clean Kosovo’s political scene?

A: I’m not sure what “clean Kosovo’s political scene” means, but the purpose of the court will presumably be justice, not political cleansing.

Q: What is the significance of this Court for Kosovo?

A: The important thing for Kosovo’s citizens to appreciate is that there are rules that apply in any armed conflict. Even in an entirely justified war, war crimes may occur. In the first instance, every country is responsible for the behavior of its own fighters. There is nothing unusual about the international community expectation that Kosovo fighters be held responsible. I wouldn’t want my liberation war stained with war crimes.

Q: How do you think this process will last and how many people will be involved?

A: How would I know? The process usually lasts much longer than anyone expects.

Q: Was there any possibility to avoid the creation of this Court if the Kosovo judiciary will have done its job better or has been inevitable process?

A: Yes. Had the Kosovo judiciary pursued war crimes cases more aggressively and effectively, there would be little need for this Special Court.

But there are also limitations. I’m not sure the Kosovo courts can be expected to pursue crimes that may have occurred in a neighboring country.

Q: Do you think the Kosovo political scene will be affected more by the creation of this Court?

A: There are obviously political differences over the creation of the Special Court. Those need to be resolved within Kosovo’s political institutions. That is what they are for.

Q: Can establishment of this court have negative effects on the situation in Kosovo and how?

A: I know creation of the court is hard. But it is important for Kosovo to demonstrate its willingness to see war crimes allegations investigated and prosecuted in a fair and objective way.

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