Do-over: the Special Court drama in Kosovo
Rrap Kryeziu, a Haverford rising senior who is spending the summer helping me out on Balkans research, writes:
Kosovo’s future direction depends on an impending vote in its parliament expected to take place Monday. The seven-year-old country faces a pre-teen crisis. Following a 2010 report by the Council of Europe that attributes inhumane crimes to high government officials and former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members, Kosovo’s Western allies as well as its Serb and Russian adversaries, are demanding accountability. Because the alleged crimes took place in the post-war period and some in Albania, they are not covered by the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which in any event is closed to new cases.
A constitutional amendment in the Kosovo Parliament would enable the creation of a Special Court in which internationals would try still unspecified indictees. On June 26, the amendment fell five votes short. The opposition, which vehemently opposes the amendment, did not vote at all. Seven members of the governing PDK did not support the constitutional amendment despite their party leader’s unequivocal public support for the Special Court. PDK leader, former Prime Minister and now Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci may himself be implicated in the accusations, according to the Council of Europe report.
Opponents of the Special Court are concerned with upholding the KLA’s freedom-fighting reputation. They fear the court will tranform the image of Kosovars from victims of ethnic cleansing to perpetrators of crimes against humanity. There are also concerns about national sovereignty. Members of Vetevendosje (VV)–the leading opposition party–now surprisingly praise the integrity and capacity of Kosovo’s justice system, which in the past they have criticized as the tool of the ruling elite. It is unclear how they expect the court system to prosecute people they previously accused of controlling the judiciary.
One part does not reveal much about the whole. There was no single mastermind behind the KLA, which was an organic resistance movement. Potentially finding a few KLA commanders guilty of war crimes should not tarnish the entire movement. Confronting uncomfortable allegations by bringing a handful of individuals to justice will instead clear a dark cloud that has been cast by the Council of Europe report. It will reflect political maturity on behalf of Kosovo.
The US ambassador to Kosovo has warned lawmakers of a cascade of political disasters if Kosovo does not allow creation of the Special Court. Kosovo will weaken its partnerships with Western allies, who will allow the Security Council to take up the matter. Russia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, will have a big say in what happens there. It is also likely that new elections will ensue, as the current coalition had promised to establish the Special Court within six months of taking power.
It is time for a re-run. The result will signal whether Kosovo is heading West, or astray.