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When the court turns into a spectacle of uniforms

By Baton Haxhiu

I have been waiting for two days to find out which of the members of the Special Court would be arrested for leaking information to the public. There are only few who have access on the court’s files and even fewer are those informed about the accusations. Consequently, one asks himself who leaked the Special Court’s files and furthermore, why are they still roaming free?

No one was arrested, nor even interrogated for that matter regarding the secret files. The tribunal and Special Court are actually surpassing their professionality by turning into representatives of the justice system. They issued arrested in an unauthorized way, through a spectacle of police uniforms, two members from the Organization of the War Veterans in Kosovo. It seemed like a personal vengeance towards specific individuals, rather than justice working.

I support the fact that anyone who has committed a crime must be punished. But, on the other hand the punishment should go through a process that empowers the justice system. I do not agree for political decisions to solve the problems of justice.

Unfair justice, efforts to blame Hashim Thaci by avoiding the bigger picture of historical justice as well as the unusual reactions of European diplomats do not help the justice system in Kosovo. Neither does the imperial arrogance full of mistakes or Europe, weak and undecisive are not reasons to brutally argue an already fragile debate.

I am trying to find the reasons.

EULEX was founded by the European Union in 2018 at the same time that Kosovo won its independence. The mission had already been invited for assistance from Kosovo shortly after the declaration of independence was signed. EULEX’s goal was to help the newly formed institutions of a new country in regards to law and justice until these institutions had the needed experience to function independently according to European practices. The European Union would invest millions so that Kosovo’s justice system and its institutions reached the EU standards after a decade long failure from the mission of the United Nations. EULEX was not destined to fail since that would mean the failure of Kosovo’s justice systems as well as the European Union itself. Alas, the following decades would prove the opposite.

Millions spent in salaries and benefits for international judges and prosecutors did not bring any serious names in the net of justice under accusations of war crimes or corruption. Furthermore, EULEX itself would get tangled in various corruption scandals. A judge and prosecutor had accused the mission, for which they had previously worked, as corrupt and abusive. The accusations would end in silence as the justice went against the accusers rather than the suspects.

The lack of results did not add to the critics or liabilities for which EULEX had been mentioned many times. Instead, it added to the mission’s arrogance and indifference. Despite the fact that EULEX’s mission in Kosovo was to be renewed every two years through international treaties and then voted by Kosovo’s parliament, after 2018 EU did not respect the process of Kosovo’s institutions. Instead, they went ahead renewing the mission without waiting for the voting of the parliament. Furthermore, after the mission’s term in Kosovo expired in 2020, EU without any agreement managed to extend the term for one more year bringing up the excuse of Covid-19, which as it is well-known, never interrupted Kosovo’s institutional life.

Despite EULEX’s obvious failure in fighting corruption in Kosovo, in 2015 EU went ahead with the creation of the Special Court, completely ignoring the political debate that accompanied it in Kosovo. Throughout the recent five years, the Special Court remained silent as if that was its real speciality. Apart from the continuous pressure of such an institution in a country accused of war crimes, though it was a war for self-defence against a deadly genocide, a war that was supported by most western countries in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe, no real measures were taken, except the various investigations. The very same ones that never brought any serious suspects in front of justice during two decades when Kosovo’s justice was handled by UNMIK and then EULEX.

Following the long silence, the Special Court came back in a dramatic way, though unfortunately violating the laws as well. Firstly, on July 2020, only a few days before its term was to expire and two days prior to an important meeting of Kosovo and Serbian officials in the White House, the office of the Special Prosecutor finally acted only through a statement for the media. A statement, that in violation of the law and lacking the formal accusation, raised suspicions that two of the main leaders of Kosovo’s Liberation Army had been involved in one hundred murders. Meanwhile, the statement added that these two politicians had been working against the mission of the Special Court.

The second part of the statement was merely an assumption of the Special Prosecutor made as an excuse for the rush of his illegal actions. The assumption that two politicians, who had helped in the founding of the Special Court, were involved in interrupting justice led to the next mistake. A leak of information regarding accusations against KLA and OLV that could have happened only internally. Despite the fact that two persons have been arrested and await their trial in Hague, the Special Court has simply remained silent about the leak of information, the same way that EULEX never spoke up about its corrupt judges and prosecutors.

Meanwhile, this whole drama is unfolding when EULEX’s term in Kosovo as well as that of the Special Court are being contested. The Special Court’s term expired in August 2020. For its extension, in the most simple scenario an agreement would have to be reached with the government. In the best case scenario, it would require constitutional amendments and consequently eighty votes in parliament. For this reason, the Speaker of Parliament handed to the Special Court earlier this year, a proposal for the amendment of the constitution. The process has not been finalized yet, leaving the Special Court’s term contested in Kosovo as well as its decisions. Furthermore, EULEX’s term has not gone through the approval of Kosovo’s institutions since 2018.

In a response to the proposal of Kosovo’s Speaker of Parliament, the Special Court’s term is expected to be continued from the same judges whose income depend on the extension of the term. Naturally, it is expected for the Special Court to extend its own term, avoiding completely the need for constitutional amendments that would risk their failure if not voted by Kosovo’s Parliament. It is thusly in total adherence with how the EU has extended EULEX’s mission since 2018.

It is a pity that such arrogant decisions are being taken since they are not needed. Kosovo is not refusing the Special Court. On the contrary, the country helped in its foundation. Furthermore, we have accepted and collaborated with all international institutions that have been installed in Kosovo after the war. The country has often even handed the sovereignty of its own institutions into the hands of international missions. Everyone accused of war crimes, including former prime ministers have surrendered voluntarily to the international court. In the end, they have all been found not guilty. The leaders of the highest institutions, including the President have publicly stated that they will resign if their accusations are confirmed.

The immediate rush from the Special Court is not the result of the lack of collaboration in Kosovo’s side. It simply reflects the inner crisis of this court, accompanied by drama that leaves room for conspiracy theories. Not only are these decisions leaving room for complaint from the accused, but they harm the goal and the credibility of the Special Court in Kosovo. Furthermore, they raise doubts on EULEX’s capacity to apply EU’s standards in Kosovo’s justice system.

The main damage that this process is causing to Kosovo is the bad example of fully financed international court that functions on press releases and not official accusations. We have witnessed that the idea of a Special Court in Kosovo does not work and is in fact counter productive since the people themselves support the collaboration with international institutions when it comes to possible crimes committed during the war for self defence.

Kosovo’s people have for a long time proven their desire to collaborate by voluntarily appearing in the court of Hague. But, because of the in competencies of the international institutions, they have also signed the historic tribute that will be paid by the future generations. From a country that was the victim of a genocide, we have accepted the accusations of war crimes. This is the gravest injustice that its allies could ever cause to Kosovo. The country, which they themselves helped to liberate.

There was nothing unusual in the western interreference to liberate Kosovo. Though, the same cannot be said about its liberation and the trial. We do not wish associate our political and social failures to the international ones. We are only concerned that west is confusing the fact that they liberated Kosovo by thinking that they conquered it.

What is the need for such dilemmas? Why must we think that our freedom questions the moral of every human being to defend from evil and aggression? Looking back at the history of our issues, it seems rather useless the need for a special tribunal for Kosovo.

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