TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE IN KOSOVO AFTER THE WAR: THE HARDSHIP IT FACES
Photo credit: Jean-Philippe KSIAZEK /AFP via Getty Images)
Article by Enio Ibro,
“We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” ― Bill Clinton
Despite 21 years have passed since the war in Kosovo ended, many families still mourn their missing relatives. What makes it even more painful, is the fact that although more than 500.000 Kosovars were displaced from their territory, very few responsible persons have been prosecuted and convicted for war crimes and those against humanity. For many years, the investigations have been conducted only from the international authorities.
Efforts from the government and NGOs to implement transitional justice
In 2012, Kosovo decided to take the situation under control. The government’s mission was to indict the persons responsible for the human rights violations happened in 1998 and 1999. However, different obstacles have undermined the progress of this process. In the recent years, Kosovo’s membership to Interpol was refused thrice, making it impossible for them to target the suspected persons living abroad and bringing them to justice. Yet, the government has been determined to go forward and has enacted new laws to help the creation of new commissions and institutes to investigate on these crimes. The Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation (IMWG DwPR) was settled in June 2012. Its duties were to implement the rule of law according to the international human right law, to provide remedies to the victims and to promote peace and reconciliation. The European Union, including the UN, have provided financial aid and technical support to this new project. However, since its inception 8 years ago, the IMWG DwPR hasn’t been able to go through its objectives other than just setting a national strategy. A research study from authors Nora Ahmetaj and Thomas Unger, pointed out some of the challenges that prevented it from accomplishing its goals. The absence of the funding from the government, which relied only on the foreign donations and the absence of a parliamentary supervision, were among the negative factors that impacted the progress. As of today, IMWG DwPR cannot be considered an effective instrument to implement the transitional justice.
Besides the IMWG DwPR, other institutions and organizations have been formed to further investigate on human rights violations yet undiscovered or prosecuted. “Kosovo War Crimes Research Institute” is among the new institutes dealing with these investigations. Its mandate comprises the collection and processing of data regarding the humanitarian crimes. However, the lack of staff and funding have contributed to make the institute inactive and unable to publish any concrete results. Different NGOs like “The Humanitarian Law Centre”, “‘Mother Theresa’ Humanitarian and Charitable Society” and “Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims” have worked together to gather and document the atrocities and human rights violations happened during the war. Over 20 organizations have also joined to form the “Coordinating Council of the Association of Families of Missing Persons in Kosovo.” Some of the following governmental instruments have also been established in order to implement the judicial measures towards transitional justice: The Department of Martyrs Families and War Invalids; The National Council for Survivors of Sexual Violence During the War; The Government Commission for the Recognition and Verification of Victims of Sexual Violence During the Kosovo Liberation War; The Government Commission on Missing Persons; The Ministry for Communities and Repatriation. All of them have collaborated by reviewing and analyzing thousands of applications. Today, more than 6615 persons have returned their homes and over than 1000 houses have been rebuilt.
Resolving matters which comprise a significant amount of violence and sufferance is hard, delicate and requires a lot of time. For instance, it took the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) more than 10 years to convict 5 former high-ranking Serbian officials involved in the war crime atrocities. The ICTY has been dissolved from 2017 but it left a strong legacy of war crimes justice. Nevertheless, today, achieving transitional justice is more important than ever and indeed a necessary step towards the goal of promoting peace and stability between Kosovo and Serbia. Both countries should put joint efforts to put the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice. For the victims to finally rest in peace, it is indispensable for the “old feuds” to end and the war chapter to close once and for all.
The author is an LL.M candidate at UC Berkeley School of Law. He lectures at the Faculty of Law, University of Tirana in Albania and his main areas of focus are in International Law, Criminal Law and Human Rights Law.