Kosovo's parliament votes in favour of war crime court
Kosovo's parliament on Monday amended the constitution to allow the creation of a special EU-backed court to examine war crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the 1998-1999 war, AFP reports.
Following a heated six-hour debate, 82 lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament backed the amendments that would allow establishment of the court to deal with accusations of war crimes committed against Serbs and other non-Albanians during the conflict, which pitted the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against Serbian security forces.
The opposition, which fiercly opposes the court, boycotted the vote. The KLA guerrillas are still considered heroes among Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population of almost two million people.
Prime Minister Isa Mustafa told legislators before the vote that the issue was "a challenge" whose resolution was requested by the international community.
"It is an explicit request of Kosovo's strategic partners, especially the United States of America and the European Union," he said.
Pristina has been under intense international pressure to create the special court since a 2011 Council of Europe report on alleged crimes that included abductions, summary executions and -- most controversially -- the trafficking of prisoners' organs by KLA members during the war.
The report by the Council's special rapporteur, Dick Marty, said the KLA had abused, tortured and killed 500 prisoners, mostly ethnic Serbs and Roma.
Following the vote Mustafa promptly called a meeting of his cabinet for late Monday to prepare a draft law on the special court for parliament, which is expected to approve a bill without problem.
The new tribunal, expected to start working early next year, would be part of the Kosovo judicial system, but sensitive proceedings would be handled abroad, most likely in an EU member state.
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.