Indictments by an EU task force are expected to be filed once a special court is established next year.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 06/08/14
Chief Prosecutor Clint Williamson announced the EU Special Investigative Task Force will prosecute top Kosovo Liberation Army leaders. [AFP]
Kosovo pledged to continue to work with the EU Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after the 1999 Kosovo war.
SITF announced last week it will file indictments against senior former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) officials for such crimes.
Chief Prosecutor Clint Williamson said individual KLA leaders bear responsibility for a campaign of persecution against Serbs, Roma and other minorities as well as Kosovo Albanians who were their political opponents or suspected Serb collaborators.
Williamson said the campaign included unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, other forms of inhumane treatment, forced displacements and destruction of religious shrines and sites.
"This effectively resulted in the ethnic cleansing of large portions of the Serb and Roma population from those areas in Kosovo south of the Ibar River. The widespread or systematic nature of these crimes in the period after the war ended in June 1999 justifies a prosecution for crimes against humanity," he said. Williamson said SITF has faced efforts to undermine the investigation in a climate of intimidation of witnesses that is still ongoing.
Williamson said SITF has not secured conclusive evidence on KLA involvement in human organs trafficking.
"I can say at this point there are compelling indications that this practice did occur on a very limited scale and that a small number of individuals were killed for the purpose of extracting and trafficking their organs," he said.
The indictments will be filed when a special court designated to hear these cases is established early next year.
"Kosovo will fully co-operate with the SITF and the country's institutions will make the necessary legal and constitutional changes to establish the new special court," Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga said.
The government also issued a statement pledging it will co-operate with the SITF until the investigation concludes.
"The government of Kosovo praises the conclusion of the work of Ambassador Williamson, which is an important step in the eventual definition of individual responsibility, and will provide an end to the pretentions of other un-proven allegations," it said.
Experts said Kosovo's approach is constructive.
"The government and the parliament of Kosovo have shown readiness and full will to co-operate in a legal process with the SITF…a process that, in fact, helps to face the past," Albert Rakipi, executive director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies in Tirana, told SETimes.
Serbian officials said Williamson's report is a result of political compromise, but will nevertheless contribute to achieving justice.
"It is most difficult to prove organ trafficking and it is much easier and more practical to press charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity," Bruno Vekaric, Serbia deputy war crimes prosecutor, told SETimes.
Vekaric said the report is the first to define KLA leaders were responsible for systematic war crimes that were not isolated incidents.
"There is obviously material for war crimes indictments for certain individuals, but when there is no trial chamber, there is no indictment," Vekaric said.
Correspondent Bojana Milovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.
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