Accessibility links

Breaking News

Kosovo Votes for New War Crimes Court

Protesters hold posters of Sylejman Selimi, a war commander during the 1998-1999 war, during a protest against a parliamentary vote to create a new war crimes court, in Pristina, Kosovo, May 29, 2015.

Kosovo's parliament voted to change the constitution on Monday and create a war crimes court, which the West wants to try ethnic Albanian former guerrillas for alleged war crimes, including organ harvesting.

The vote was held just one month after parliament first tried to approve the creation of the court, seen by many Kosovo Albanians as an attempt to tarnish their 1998-99 guerrilla war against Serbian rule.

The constitutional changes were endorsed by 82 deputies in the 120-seat parliament.

"Finding the truth about some allegations from during and after the war is a challenge that we have to deal with," Prime Minister Isa Mustafa told legislators before the vote.

The now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which counts among its former ranks much of Kosovo's current political elite, has been dogged for years by allegations it removed organs from ethnic Serb captives, who were then killed and their organs sold on the black market.

Kosovo's chief diplomatic and financial backers, the United States and the European Union, have pressed on Kosovo to address the accusations.

They said that failure to create the court risks seeing the issue taken up by the United Nations Security Council and the inevitable involvement of Serbia's big-power ally Russia, which opposes Kosovo sovereignty.

After a decade of passive resistance, the KLA took up arms against forces of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in the late 1990s, eventually winning NATO air support to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognized by over 100 states, but not by Serbia or Russia.

The new court will be located in the Netherlands, due to concerns over witness intimidation and judicial corruption in Kosovo.

Former prime minister and wartime KLA commander, Ramush Haradinaj, was among those in parliament who opposed the court.

"By approving this court we are turning ourselves into a monster. During the war we were not monsters, we were victims," said Haradinaj, who now heads the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo.