Kosovo's 'Rambo', Serbia's arch-antagonist, set to be PM

    A hero at home but considered a war criminal by Belgrade, Ramush Haradinaj is set to become Kosovo's prime minister just a few months after fighting against extradition to Serbia. If parliament approves his appointment as expected, this controversial former insurgent -- nicknamed "Rambo" by his comrades -- will have the job of relaunching crucial negotiations with his Serbian adversaries. The talks to "normalise" relations between Belgrade and Pristina, brokered by the European Union, have come to a standstill in recent months. Haradinaj has opposed the dialogue, calling for Belgrade...

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    Ukraine: Unbearable uncertainty for families of the missing

    For more than three years, eastern Ukraine has suffered conflict. Amid the world’s many other humanitarian crises, in Syria, or in Yemen for example, it can be easy to forget Ukraine. But the UN estimates that 10,000 people have lost their lives here since 2014. Thousands of families are grieving, and many, like Yuliia and Olha, have been condemned to wait for years to find out exactly what happened to their loved ones. “These are our fathers,” says Yuliia, taking a framed photograph off the shelf. “This one is Olha’s father, Serhii Uzakov, and this one here is my father, Volodymyr Bondarenko.” The two men disappeared almost three years ago. “It was November 27th 2014,” remembers...

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    “If the ICC fails in Georgia, it will be the same in Afghanistan and Palestine"
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    Lawyer Nika Jeiranashvili has been based in The Hague for the Open Society for nearly a year monitoring progress of the Georgia case before the International Criminal Court (ICC). In January 2016, ICC judges authorized the opening of an investigation into crimes committed during the lightning Russo-Georgian war of summer 2008. But the Open Society lawyer thinks the ICC lacks a strategy and has not yet realized all the challenges it faces. Nika Jeiranashvili Justice Info: You have criticized the ICC Registry for lack of strategy on Georgia and the fact that the Court still does not have...

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    Geneva conference on Kosovo: a judicial and a humanitarian approach to find the 1658 missing persons
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor

    In contexts of political violence, one of the worst forms of psychological torture is not to know what happened to loved ones. And it gets worse with time. Has that person been taken by the army or an armed group? Have they been assassinated? Will they ever be found alive, or at least their remains, if victim of an extrajudicial killing? “For the past 18 years, every day that goes by is agony for us,” wrote the families of Serb and Kosovar disappeared people in a joint appeal on June 21. Under pressure from them, a UN roundtable was held in Geneva last Thursday and Friday with all the...

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    Families of 1,658 Kosovo disappeared still searching for their loved ones
    Frédéric Burnand, correspondent in Geneva

    A two-day conference this week in Geneva aims to relaunch the process of identifying 1,658 people who disappeared during the war in Kosovo (1998-1999). On the eve of the conference, families of Serb and Kosovar victims together urged local and international authorities to rise above obstacles and lack of political will. “We the mothers, fathers, spouses, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons and other relatives of the disappeared (…) will not rest until the fate of the last missing person has been clarified,” says the joint appeal signed on June 21 by Serb and Albanian families of people who...

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    Kosovo proposes Truth Commission, as leaders suspected of war crimes

    Following elections in Kosovo on Sunday June 11, Ramush Haradinaj is the favourite to be next Prime Minister. Although acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, he is still accused of war crimes by Belgrade. Last January he was arrested at Bâle-Mulhouse airport on a request from Serbia and imprisoned in France. French judicial authorities subsequently released him, without extraditing him to Belgrade. These elections no doubt signal a period of political instability in Kosovo. A coalition of parties that grew from the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) won the...

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    Kosovo elections with war crimes court and international justice in mind

    Kosovo voted Sunday for a new parliament that will have to navigate tense relations with Serbia, endemic corruption and possible war crimes indictments for some of its leaders. The early general election is only the third since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, but it "might be the hardest to predict," according to Florian Bieber, professor of Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz in Austria. A month after the last government lost a confidence vote, the battle for a new prime minister pitches an ex-guerrilla commander against a former student protest...

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    Bosnia's glorification of war criminals 'unacceptable': prosecutor

    Bosnian nationalists are making "unacceptable provocations" by glorifying convicted war criminals and denying crimes from the 1992-1995 war, the UN prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia said Wednesday. Serge Brammertz urged the Security Council to address the denial of war crimes in Bosnia during a meeting on the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The prosecutor criticized a recent decision of Bosnian Serb education officials to ban textbooks that teach students about the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo. "These facts are taught...

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    Spanish Left demands return to universal jurisdiction
    François Musseau, correspondent in Madrid

    Is the concept of universal jurisdiction, in which Spanish judges used to lead the way, about to come back in Spain? A Bill to this effect is in the parliamentary works, even if it is blocked for the moment by the party in power, the Popular Party. Some voices within Podemos, the third largest political force in the lower house of parliament, have in recent weeks been demanding that Spain become once again a country where justice has “no limits and no borders”. This was the recent call of Miguel Urban, one of the co-founders of Podemos, on Publico-TV. In April, renowned Spanish jurist...

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    Will Switzerland dare to prosecute two African leaders the Gambian Sonko and the Liberian Kosiah ?
    Julia Crawford

    Human rights NGOs hope Switzerland has the political will to prosecute former Gambian minister Ousman Sonko and former Liberian rebel leader Alieu Kosiah. Sonko is suspected of crimes against humanity while Kosiah is charged with committing war crimes.   The NGOs TRIAL and Civitas Maxima see both cases as important tests for Switzerland’s use of an international legal tool known as “universal jurisdiction”. Ousman Sonko, a former long-time interior minister of Gambia, was arrested in Bern in January this year, on allegations of torture filed by the Swiss branch of TRIAL International....

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    New Kosovo Court Pledges to Finally Prosecute Ex-Guerrillas
    Marija Ristić

    The new special court will try to make up for the failures of several international efforts to bring former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters to justice for 1990s crimes, but witness protection, legitimacy and outreach remain key challenges ahead. After five years of negotiations, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office will finally launch its first judicial activity this year. Although based in The Hague, the Specialist Chambers (SC) is legally part of Kosovo’s judicial system, but independent from the Kosovo judiciary and staffed by internationals, while all...

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    Week in Review: “Dealing with the past is defining the present”
    François Sergent,

    The way history is remembered was a theme emerging this week not only in Tunisia and Germany but also France, in the grip of presidential elections.  Remembrance and the past were one of the numerous subjects of debate between the two second-round French presidential candidates. “The country’s 20th century history, including the Algerian War and the Second World War, brought some of the fiercest clashes between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron,” writes JusticeInfo editorial advisor Pierre Hazan. “Doesn’t France also need a Truth Commission to better deal with its colonial past?”  And...

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    “Who will testify to Kosovo tribunal?” asks the man who exposed organ trafficking

    Former Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty this week spoke publicly for the first time in years about his explosive December 2010 report on illegal human organ trafficking in Kosovo. He was speaking to a “Carrefour de Sarajevo” forum at Neuchâtel University, attended by a numerous public.  In his report Marty (who is also on the board of  Fondation Hirondelle, owner of pointed the finger at current President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, accused of being “one of the most dangerous sponsors of the Albanian criminal underworld”. The report says that the Kosovo president and his close...

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    French court refuses to extradite ex-Kosovo PM Haradinaj to Serbia

    A French court on Thursday rejected a request by Serbia to extradite former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, who Belgrade accuses of committing war crimes during the 1998-1999 war in the Serbian Kosovo. Haradinaj, 48, was arrested by French police on January 4 when he flew into the Franco-Swiss airport of Basel-Mulhouse, but he is free to return home following Thursday's decision by the court in Colmar, eastern France. He told AFP in an interview this month that he is the victim of "political persecution". Haradinaj, a lawmaker and opponent of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, is...

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    Mission impossible for Kosovo war crimes court?
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    In a few days, the 19 judges of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC), a European Union initiative ratified by Kosovo’s parliament in 2016, will have their own Rules of Procedure and Evidence. In theory, everything will then be ready for the first indictments against the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2000. The Specialist Chambers are an integral part of Kosovo’s judicial system, but they have an international presence and they sit in The Hague, Netherlands. The President is Bulgarian, the Prosecutor...

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    Remembrance: Can Mali learn from Germany?
    Arrey Ojong Eyumeneh

    Whenever there are serious and /or massive human rights violations within a community or a State, victims, their family members and eye witnesses tend to seek justice and truth about what happened to their loved ones. To ensure that that the truth is uncovered and justice takes its course in the form of prosecuting the perpetrators and offering restitution/compensation to the victims and their families, some societies have also moved a step further by introducing different remembrance projects aimed at honoring the victims, thus reminding citizens of the atrocities that happened in the...

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    Turkish obstruction keeps Geneva’s Armenian genocide memorial in public eye
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    The irony is that Turkey, by blocking for years the construction of a memorial in Geneva to the Armenian genocide, has made this monument more alive than if it had been built, if only because of the passions it arouses.  Austrian writer and philosopher Robert Musil talked in one of his works about the paradox of building monuments. Although they are erected in the public space to be seen, they tend to disappear from conscious view and condemned to the ocean of forgetfulness. “Nothing in the world is less visible than monuments,” he wrote. “There is no doubt they are erected to be seen and...

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    War Justice Strategy for Kosovo Undermined by Divisions
    Marija Ristic

    A Kosovo government-backed working group set up to draft a national strategy for dealing with the wartime past has been troubled by divisions, disputes and failures to deliver, a new report says. Kosovo’s Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation (IMWG) has been working since 2012 on developing a National Strategy on Transitional Justice - but with no public draft yet published, questions are being asked about why it has failed to live up to expectations.A group of NGOs is launching a report on Tuesday in Pristina examining the role of the IMWG, which...

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    Universal jurisdiction gains ground from Pinochet to Syria
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    Universal jurisdiction is making slow but steady progress as a tool against impunity, and not only in Europe. This is according to a report published on Monday March 27 by five human rights organizations. Forty-seven people suspected of crimes committed in another country were tried before national courts in 2016, according to the report, entitled Make Way for Justice. This marks slow but steady progress for the principle of universal jurisdiction, which is being used more widely, including outside the European Union. “Despite constant attacks, universal jurisdiction continues to be a...

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    A Foundation of Lies: "Relatives for Justice" Unpacks the Truth about the Irish Conflict

      On February 12th, 1989, sledgehammers smashed through Pat Finucane’s front door in north Belfast. Paramilitaries stormed his family home and found the 39-year-old human rights lawyer eating Sunday dinner with his wife and three children. They shot him 14 times and fled. Nearly 30 years after Finucane’s killing, questions persist. Who commissioned the murder? Was the British government involved in some capacity? And when will justice for victims finally be served?     Mark Thompson These are the questions Mark Thompson grapples with every day....

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