The European Union and the United States have welcomed Kosovo Parliament’s vote Monday to establish a special war crimes court to prosecute former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas as a step forward to ensure justice for the victims.
The U.S. welcomed the decisions by the government of Kosovo and Kosovo’s legislative Assembly that open the way for issuing indictments and try cases, “as appropriate, resulting from the evidentiary findings of the Special Investigative Task Force,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement Tuesday.
“These steps were difficult, but necessary to move Kosovo forward on its path toward Euro-Atlantic integration,” the statement said.
EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini noted Monday the law was approved despite widespread opposition within Kosovo.
“While recognizing that this step by MPs of the Kosovo Assembly was not easy, it is a sign of responsibility and determination to establish the truth and make decisions compatible with Kosovo’s European path,” Mogherini said in a statement.
U.S. and EU member states embassies in Pristina said in a joint statement Monday that the lawmakers decision to address the allegations of war crimes “demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements.
“By dealing with its past and ensuring justice for the victims, Kosovo can achieve reconciliation and build a better future,” the embassies said.
Many in Kosovo see the Special Court as an insult to the KLA’s wartime struggle against repressive Serbian rule.
Kosovo’s President Atifete Jahjaga said the establishment of special court demonstrated Kosovo’s dedication to the principle of justice.
“The special tribunal will address the allegations raised by the Council of Europe report and will not pass judgment on our collective endeavors for liberation and freedom,” Jahjaga said.
But authorities in Belgrade received Kosovo’s decision with skepticism.
The director of the Serbian government Office for Kosovo-Metohija, Marko Djuric, said Monday’s vote “constitutes only the first step,” and his country “will not be satisfied until those who committed crimes are punished.”
The court is expected to review accusation that KLA fighters were involved in killings, illegal detentions, persecution and abductions of Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians suspected as collaborators of the Serbian regime during and after the 1998-99 conflict.
The allegations against KLA fighters first appeared in a report published in 2011 by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty, who claimed that during the conflict KLA members committed crimes against civilians such as kidnapping, torture and organ-harvesting.
(VOA’s Albanian Service contributed to this report)