Kosovo Arrests Seven for Protest Against War Court Chief – Kosovo police arrested seven members of the Social Democratic Party of Kosovo, PSD, after protesters tried to disrupt an event in Pristina organised by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which they accuse of denigrating the Kosovo Liberation Army’s wartime struggle against Serbian forces.
While Ekaterina Trendafilova, president of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, was starting her presentation to civil society activists and journalists, two protesters interrupted her by blowing whistles. They called Trendafilova a representative of an unjust court that they claimed is trying to “change the history of Kosovo”.
The others who were arrested were protesting outside the building, including Dardan Molliqaj, the leader of the PSD, a small party with no MPs in parliament.
“The Special Court is unfair, so it cannot bring justice,” the party said in a statement which also accused the police of using excessive force when arresting its members.
Kosovo’s former president, Hashim Thaci, and several other high-profile former KLA commanders are currently awaiting trial for wartime crimes at the Specialist Chambers in The Hague.
The PSD claims, like other critics of the Specialist Chambers in Kosovo, that it is only targeting Kosovo Albanians and ignoring more serious crimes committed by Serbian forces during the 1998-99 war.
The Specialist Chambers are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but are located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.
They were set up in August 2015 by the Kosovo parliament, acting under pressure from the country’s Western allies, who believe Kosovo’s own justice system is not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from intimidation, after previous cases at the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague were marred by witness-tampering.
Thaci and his fellow indictees are charged with being part of a ‘joint criminal enterprise’ during the war. This term has often been interpreted in Kosovo as an attack on the KLA itself, claiming it can be seen as a suggestion that the KLA was a criminal organisation.
But Trendafilova told the event on Tuesday that a joint criminal enterprise is a legal concept used to “hold accountable not only those who committed the crimes in the field but also the masterminds” behind them.
Trendafilova called for the two protesters who entered the room with whistles to be allowed back in to present their allegations and receive responses.
She also insisted that the Specialist Chambers have a good system in place to protect witnesses and any war crimes victims who decide to participate in trials via the court’s victim participation scheme.
“We put enormous efforts to keep people safe,” she said.
The Specialist Chambers’ registrar, Fidelma Donlon, stressed that “the application process [in the victim participation scheme] is confidential” and that applications will be dealt with “confidentially and in a secure manner”.