PRISTINA, Kosovo — The Government of Kosovo decided to establish an institute for the investigation of war crimes. The war crimes institute will have the status of a public agency, which will work under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kosovo. Its main focus will be to keep evidence of crimes and damages committed by Serbia in Kosovo during the time period 1990-1999. According to Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Hajredin Kuçi, the institute "… will collect, process, classify and store cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and values, protected by international law."
The investigation addresses crimes committed over the mentioned de-cade by Serbian officials as well as of Serbia backed civil, military and paramilitary organizations and persons. Both Kosovar and international experts will be involved in the institute’s activities .
By establishing a war crimes institute, the Government of Kosovo aims at filing charges against Serbia at the International Court of Justice – as soon as this will be possible. The main requirement to approach the court is the still pending recognition by the United Nations, which is blocked by Russia and China. Currently 75 UN member states have recognized the Republic of Kosovo.
Recently published figures of victims data by The Hague Tribunal reveal that only in the short time from March to June 1999 as many as 10,356 ethnic Albanians were killed in Kosovo. These figures in addition refer to a “… departure of at least 700,000 Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo in the …" same time. Further two thousand persons are still missing. Reportedly around 200 thousand houses, business premises, factories, schools as well as several cultural and religious buildings had been destroyed over the decade until 1999.
The announced establishment of a war crimes institute comes surprisingly late. Nevertheless it sets a signal at the right time: The current public communication and prosecution of war crimes throughout the former Yugoslavia seems to target specifically persons outside Serbia, with particular focus on Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. By this also in Kosovo the fear arises, that the former perpetrator, Serbia, by subtle diplomatic campaigns successfully tries to transfer its image from an aggressor to a victim.
Although publishing most doubtful statements in general, in this particular case the US conservative Kuhner manages to briefly summarize the situation:
"All sides were guilty of atrocities; no party – or nation – was more responsible than the other. This is what Serbia has been demanding for years. It has sought to cover its … national shame with moral equivalence".
In Kosovo the respective discussion about war crimes is actually dominated by strong rejection of veteran organizations referring to the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA / UCK), which are closely bound to the ruling Demo-cratic Party of Kosovo (PDK). These war veterans claim, that the KLA worriers were heroes and the KLA was fighting for justice against Serbian suppression: A prosecution against former KLA members therefore would damage the reputation of the whole organization. Veteran representatives even requested a law, which protects former KLA members from prosecution.
Of course this request harms any healthy understanding of justice at all. Justice Minister Kuci – who holds a doctorate in international law from the University of Graz in Austria – should be aware, that "Lady Justice" (Justitia) is blind and shell be blind for good reason. Those who fought for justice, now have to apply justice equally to everyone. If not, thy will loose their moral supremacy.
In other words: Crimes committed during the war by persons who were members of the KLA – or even worse: used their KLA membership for crimes – must be brought to court as crimes of individuals. By hiding or protecting criminal individuals, the reputation of the KLA will suffer – not the other way round.
Minister Kuci has chosen the right moment to institutionalize and structure the processing of war crimes – in order not to allow Serbia easily "to render history’s final judgment on the Balkan wars of the 1990s" – However, a supreme approach of justice implies, that the concerned institute has to investigate all war crimes that occurred in Kosova – regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
This article was first published on Technorati