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U.S. warns Kosovo against changing law on war crimes court

By Sylejman Kllokoqi Associated Press

PRISTINA, Kosovo – The United States ambassador to Kosovo said Friday that he opposes a petition to amend a law governing a war crimes court, calling it a “terrible idea” that would isolate the young country.

Former fighters in Kosovo’s independence movement have allegedly collected more than 10,000 signatures for a petition on a 2015 law that governs the Kosovo Specialist Chambers court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, seeking to extend its jurisdiction to include Serbs, their former adversaries in a war for independence.

The court was set up as a result of U.S. and European pressure on Kosovo’s government to confront alleged war crimes the Kosovo Liberation Army committed against ethnic Serbs.

“Don’t turn back the clock,” U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie wrote on Twitter. “We have not invested so much effort into #Kosovo’s success to see it destroy its future by undoing the Special Court Law.”

Local online news site Gazetaexpress reported that Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci, parliament Speaker Kadri Veseli and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj – all former KLA military commanders – planned to sneak a law based on the petition through a special session of parliament.

Forty-three lawmakers called for the session on Friday, but a quorum was not obtained since opposition parties refused to take part in consecutive meetings.

Some lawmakers also said the draft law should be prepared and put to a cabinet vote before reaching parliament.

Both Delawie and his British counterpart, Ambassador Ruairi O’Connell were at the parliament building through the day.

“It will be considered by the United States as a stab in the back,” said Delawie, calling on Kosovo’s leader “to end this effort.”

“Tonight could be Kosovo’s most dangerous night since the war,” said O’Connell.

The court, with judges from European Union member countries, the U.S. and Canada, says it has jurisdiction over all potential war crimes suspects who were citizens in Kosovo, which includes Kosovars and Serbs. It is part of Kosovo’s legal system and covers crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes committed during and immediately after the 1998-1999 war.

The court’s prosecutors are investigating allegations that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centers where Serbs and other civilian captives were killed and their organs sold on the black market.

It has yet to hear any cases.

Earlier this month, Thaci expressed doubts that the special court would “strengthen the feeling of justice for the war victims” since he and other Kosovars say it focuses on Kosovo Liberation Army fighters. He complained that the international community is discriminating against Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Belgrade has not recognized.

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