The first meeting of the Working Group formed to establish the second Institute for Crimes Committed during the War in Kosovo was held in Pristina yesterday. The first Institute was shut down by the Ramush Haradinaj-led government. The meeting was also attended by the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who announced that a concept document on crimes committed during the war would be prepared.
A little over a year ago, the first government led by Albin Kurti launched an initiative to establish a new Institute for War Crimes in Kosovo.
After this the government was toppled, but then came to power again, the work that had begun at that time continued.
A working group was recently formalized to draft a concept document for the establishment of the institute. The first meeting of this group was held yesterday.
„Last year, two weeks before this day, we met to form teams, and today we continue with the second phase, which will prepare a concept document on crimes committed during the war, it will be difficult to address all crimes committed. The families of the victims have lost their faith, and this is a danger that we are facing, and that is why we need greater commitment in that regard,“ Kurti said.
The Kosovan Prime Minister underlined the importance of this initiative to establish the institute.
„I believe that you noticed that the name of the Institute is not the ‘War Crimes Institute’, but the Institute for Crimes Committed during the War. We used this name because we consider it is important to deal with other crimes that took place in Kosovo during the last war – other than war crimes, such as crimes against humanity and genocide,“ he said.
He also stated that everyone is aware that dealing with the crimes committed in Kosovo is nowhere near the level it should and must be.
„No one should claim that we’ll be able to easily solve all the problems that surfaced 22 years ago,“ Kurti said, noting that it will be very difficult to do so.
On the other hand, he alleged that they now have the opportunity to change and take on more responsibility.
According to Kurti, 13,000 people were killed during the Kosovo war, however, „damage is even greater“ – both in an economic sense and in other aspects.
„More than 13,000 people were killed during the last war. Thousands of people were raped. Thousands were tortured and imprisoned,“ said Kurti.
The Prime Minister also says that they suffered „devastating damage.”
“Even today, 22 years after the war, we don’t have a figure that could tell us the economic damage that the war caused to our country.“
„The situation is even worse when it comes to the emotional and psychological damage, which we have not dealt with properly at all these years,“ he states.
In his words, that is also the reason why a team that would exclusively work on preparing the analysis started operating last year – as the best way to proceed with the establishment of the institute.
Furthermore, Kurti said that the institute should have its own budget line, adding that there is no longer a luxury of making new mistakes. He also called for the support of all parties in Kosovo, which he claims is necessary to achieve success.
The Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, also spoke at the meeting, saying that until now, there has been a lack of political will to solve problems. Haxhiu claims that the ministry led by her will support the government.
„The Assembly of Kosovo approved an amendment aimed at removing obstacles to the work of the institute. A budget will also be allocated to the Special Prosecutor’s Office to increase the number of prosecutors by four to further improve the work,“ Haxhiu said.
Bearing in mind that the first war crimes institute was shut down, Haxhiu says the working group will also investigate „why such initiatives have failed and it will try not to repeat past mistakes.“
„Citizens and organizations are constantly working to ensure that the rights of victims are respected because there was a lack of political will,“ Haxhiu concluded.
The establishment of the Institute for Crimes Committed during the War in Kosovo is one of the pre-election promises of the Self-Determination movement. It was also included in the programme of the current Kosovo government.
The institute was originally established in 2011, but it was also abolished in 2018 – by the then Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj.
The decision reached at the time stated that a „Department of Transitional Justice“ would be formed within the Ministry of Justice – as an alternative to the institute.
While this institute was up and running, a dozen monographs were published on the number of killed, missing Albanians, and what was presented as economic damage and destruction of Kosovo’s cultural heritage by the „Serb aggressor“.
All official initiatives so far have focused exclusively on crimes against Albanians during the Kosovo conflict.
The process of establishing the Institute for War Crimes Committed in Kosovo is taking place at the same time as the genocide lawsuit against Serbia is underway.
According to announcements from the Kosovo government, this lawsuit is set to be filed before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) before the end of next year.
The announcement comes ahead of the announced top-level political meeting between Belgrade and Pristina and just before the sentencing of Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic for genocide in Srebrenica.
The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, previously interpreted the genocide lawsuit and the Kosovo government’s request for war reparations as a clear indicator that Pristina does not care about dialogue.
The Prime Minister of Kosovo said yesterday that opening the state archives of Serbia is of utmost importance because „crimes were not committed by individuals, but by the Serbian state.“
On the eve of the continuation of the Brussels dialogue, instead of showing readiness to resolve open issues of common interest, Kurti continues to spread his inflammatory statements and accusations against official Belgrade, the head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic, said in response to Kurti’s statement.
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