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Security Experts Discuss Kosovo Legal System


Security experts meeting in Belgrade are expressing concern that the new and frail legal system in Kosovo may not be able to deal with the criminal acts associated with last week's ethnic violence in the province.

The U.N. administrator in Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, calls last week's violence a crime against humanity, and he promises to bring the perpetrators to justice.

But lawyers and human rights officials attending the Belgrade conference are skeptical about Kosovo's internationally-run legal system.

During the past year prosecutors in Kosovo have been unable to win many convictions in cases involving inter-ethnic violence. Intimidation has made it next to impossible for law enforcement officials to convince witnesses to appear in court.

A German lawyer for the Brussels-based Stability Pact, Sebastian von Munchow, says Kosovar Albanians have not been receiving adequate legal training at Pristina's university.

Mr. von Munchow says some international judges in Kosovo have been threatened with violence if they actively pursue certain criminal cases.

Michael Simmons, an eastern European human rights specialist for the American Friends Service Committee, worries that Gypsy or Roma people are particularly vulnerable during this round of ethnic violence. Mr. Simmons, who spent several months in the divided Kosovar town of Mitrovice, where violence flared last week, says ethnic-Albanians tend to treat Roma the same as Serbs. There are as many as 6,000 Roma in Kosovo.

Mr. Von Muchow of the Stability Pact is hopeful that the renewed tension will not derail the tentative dialogue on technical matters that recently began between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia.

The experts were speaking at a conference sponsored by, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Stability Pact Aid Consortium. The conference was supposed to be about human trafficking, but the renewed violence in Kosovo took much of the participants' attention.

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