YIHR and HLC Kosovo condemn criticism and protests over Gashi’s statement, Justice must not be blinded by ethnicity or religion

The Kosovo public has been greatly upset for the past two days over the statement of the now former advisor of Albin Kurti, Shkelzen Gashi that everyone who committed crimes during the war should be punished. In one of his public appearances, Gashi said that some „members of the KLA had committed crimes against non-Albanian civilians.“

His statements, however, were soon met with wide criticism by politicians, the public and the media, which was even followed by protest. Kurti dismissed Gashi last night.

The Kosovo public broadcaster RTK claimed that thousands of Pristina citizens protested from their balconies against Gashi’s statements at 9pm last night. An incident took place in Glogovac/Drenas following the protest – organized by the PDK youth branch in that town, when several protesters (allegedly) clashed with police, Pristina-based Koha reported this morning.

Leading non-governmental human rights organizations with branches in Belgrade and Pristina also reacted on the occasion but ciriticising the avalanche of criticism against Gashi’s statement.

HLC Kosovo: Concern at the views of the public on impunity and denial of non-Albanian victims

“After the programme and as a result of the voiced standpoint, Mr. Gashi was the target of harsh criticism coming from individuals, but also from representatives of various organizations and associations, as well as from representatives of political parties,” the HLC reminded the public of the stream of events.

In this way, the HLC Kosovo stressed, by promoting the culture of impunity as a society, the process of transitional justice in Kosovo is hindered and victims and their families are denied the right to justice.

And the victims have the right to justice, they said.

“Therefore, we remind the public, once again, that the rule of law and justice for all civilian victims in Kosovo must be and remain a priority for Kosovo society,” reads also the statement.

The HLC recalled that it supported the adoption of constitutional amendments and the adoption of laws that enabled the establishment of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office back in 2015.

“The mission of the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo (HLC Kosovo) is to give its contribution to the Kosovo society to restore the rule of law, to confront the past and to restore the dignity of victims and their families, by supporting all courts in prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the HLC recalled its mission, adding that they continuously advocated justice for all victims of war and post-war crimes, regardless of the ethnic and religious background of victims and perpetrators of the crimes.

At the same time, the HLC expressed “concern at the views of the public on impunity and the denial of non-Albanian victims.”

The findings of the HLC and the HLC Kosovo within the “Kosovo Memory Book” project indicate that from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2000, 10,093 civilians lost their lives and/ or disappeared in Kosovo, 8,645 of whom were Albanians, 1,013 were Serbs, 262 were Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, 84 were Bosniaks and 203 were persons of other nationalities.

However, the HLC added, over the course of the previous 21 years, through various justice systems, both international and domestic, have been only able to deliver justice to an extremely small number of victims, with only 67 persons convicted on both sides of a total number of 200 defendants.

YIHR: Justice must not be blinded by the ethnicity or religion and it should be accessible to everyone

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Kosovo also reacted, expressing concern over the situation after Gashi’s statements regarding the crimes committed during the last war in Kosovo.

“We, as an organization dedicated to promoting and empowering the process of transitional justice, call for this discussion to focus on the justice that must be done to the victims and survivors without distinction before, during and after the war in Kosovo. Justice must not be blinded by the ethnicity or religion of the victims and perpetrators of these crimes. Justice should be accessible to everyone,” the YIHR wrote in a statement.

While recalling the approaching National Day of Missing Persons, the YIHR said “it is vital that the entire Kosovar society recognizes and remembers all the victims of the recent war in Kosovo.”

“After about 20 years of silence, we must collectively demand from the Kosovo institutions the legal and moral responsibility they have to resolve the issue of missing persons, establish justice and stop the glorification of persons who have committed war crimes.”

“We believe that our society will not be able to have lasting reconciliation and peace without bringing justice to all victims, survivors of sexual violence and missing persons from all ethnic communities and without addressing all other issues that are related to our recent past,” the YIHR stressed.

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