New court to open in The Hague to try Kosovo war crimes
A new EU-backed court to try war crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the Kosovo war will open this year in The Hague, the Dutch government said Friday.
"The court will try serious crimes allegedly committed in 1999-2000 by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against ethnic minorities and political opponents," the Dutch foreign ministry said in a statement.
The new tribunal will have international judges but will be part of the Kosovo judicial system, and will be housed in a former building belonging to the European police agency Europol.
The 1998-1999 war pitted ethnic Albanian guerrillas seeking independence for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo against Serbia's forces, who withdrew from the territory after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign.
Pristina has been under intense international pressure to create the special court since a 2011 Council of Europe report on alleged crimes by KLA members.
The report unveiled allegations of abductions, summary executions and -- most controversially -- the trafficking of prisoners' organs, with special rapporteur Dick Marty accusing the KLA of abusing, torturing and killing 500 prisoners, mostly ethnic Serbs and Roma.
"This is a sensitive issue in Kosovo," the Dutch foreign ministry said.
"Possible suspects may be seen by sections of Kosovan society as freedom fighters, and witnesses may feel threatened in Kosovo.
"This is why the option of trying cases outside Kosovo was explored."
Establishing such a court has also been a key demand of Kosovo's strategic partners, especially the United States and the European Union, the Kosovo government said as parliament voted in August to set it up.
"It is important for justice to be done," said Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders. "So we are pleased to be able to offer the court a home."
The war in Kosovo ended with a three-month long NATO air campaign that drove Serbian forces out of the breakaway territory in June 1999.
Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008, a move that Serbia still refuses to recognise.
© 2016 AFP