Only one indictment was filed last year for war crimes committed in the 1998-99 conflict and only two suspects were arrested, said a new report by the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo.

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Kosovo Criticised for Slow Progress in Prosecuting War Crimes

The launch of the report on Monday. Photo: European Union Kosovo.

A report on war crimes prosecutions published by the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo on Monday said that only one new indictment was raised in 2021, only two people were arrested on suspicion of war crimes, while five cases were ongoing in the courts.

The head of the War Crimes Department at the Kosovo Special Prosecution, Drita Hajdari, said investigating and prosecuting war crimes remains a challenge because many suspects are not in the country.

“The prosecution has handled cases and filed indictments in cases where we have secured the physical presence of the defendant. We cannot file indictments in cases when we do not have the presence of the perpetrators,” said Hajdari.

Hajdari added that although Kosovo law allows for trial in absentia, verdicts are almost unenforceable in such cases. She added that over 1,000 war crimes cases are pending.

The most recent indictment charged an ethnic Albanian, identified only by the initials M.A. with involvement in committing war crimes against civilians in the village of Izbica on March 28, 1999, when Serbian forces killed a total of 147 Kosovo Albanians.

The British ambassador to Pristina, Nicholas Abbott, said at the launch of the report said that the investigation of war crimes in Kosovo could be accelerated if there was judicial cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia.

Abbott said a major challenge is that many of the perpetrators of the crimes are now dead, or not in Kosovo, like suspect M.A., who lives in Belgrade. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence and does not extradite suspects to Pristina.

Abbott added that an additional problem is that “many survivors are dead, or too old [to testify]”.

From 2000 to 2008, war crimes in Kosovo were investigated by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK. After 2008, the EU’s rule-of-law mission EULEX was responsible for investigating war crimes.

EULEX completed the process of handing over its war crimes files to the Kosovo prosecution and courts in 2018, and such cases are now in the hands of the domestic judiciary.

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