After a two-day session, MPs voted in favor of a resolution defending the “merits” of the Kosovo Liberation Army, promising they would pass a law within six months.
During a marathon Assembly meeting initiated by the Kosovo Democratic Party, PDK, after the sentencing of three former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, for war crimes October 24, Kosovo MPs discussed the role of the wartime army and possibilities for defending its members from prosecution. The former KLA members, known as the ‘Drenica 2’ group, were found guilty for war crimes committed against civilians by an international EULEX judge at the Appeal’s Court.
Four parties – PDK, Kosovo Democratic League, LDK, the Initiative for the Future of Kosovo, NISMA, and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK – signed the draft resolution, which reaffirms the equality of KLA members before the law, as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
The 12 point resolution also called for the decoration of KLA members and “a law defending the merits of the KLA” to be passed in the next six months.
“The Kosovo Liberation War, led by KLA, was established with the purpose of liberating Kosovo and bringing freedom and independence for the people of Kosovo, with a protecting and liberating character, by respecting the rights and the highest war standards, exclusively against military and police forces and the occupying administration of Serbia in Kosovo,” reads the first point of the resolution. It was drafted after a harsh debate that lasted over 11 hours between MPs, two of whom almost came to blows.
“Every tendency of anyone who aims to undertake measures against the KLA members which are in contradiction with the principles of the Kosovo constitution and laws in power and for reasons outside of the justice system are unacceptable,” reads the second point of the resolution.
Throughout the day tens of MPs took the floor to glorify the KLA war, applauding its ‘righteousness.’
“The war was right and [it was fought] for freedom from genocide. We did not want the war, but we were forced to fight. Because it was pure and just, it was also supported by the international actors,” said Zenun Pajaziti, the PDK MP who called the extraordinary session.
Because the debate was initiated following a court decision, some MPs from both governing and opposition parties saw the session as interference with what should be an independent judiciary.
“This entire debate is interference with the judiciary,” said NISMA MP Fatmir Limaj, whose party eventually voted in favor of the resolution. LDK parliamentary group chief Ismet Beqiri also agreed that the assembly should not “interfere with court decisions.”
MPs from opposition party Vetevendosje took a different approach, saying that it did not matter if this is interference in the judiciary, since the very existence of the EU Rule of Law Mission, EULEX, with its foreign judges and prosecutors, constitutes judicial interference.
Vetevendosje MPs also admonished their colleagues, calling them “hypocrites,” since the very same people who requested the resolution had also voted in August 2015 for the establishment of the Specialist Chambers in the Hague, a special court that will prosecute war crimes committed between January 1, 1998 until December 31, 2000.
“Aren’t you the same ones that voted the [Special] Court?” asked Rexhep Selimi, Vetevendosje MP and former KLA commander. “Today you are either with EULEX or the KLA, you can’t be with both!”
Vetevendosje, which has opposed the establishment of the Specialist Chambers, also refused to sign the resolution, proposing that it should include a clear refusal of the court decision against the ‘Drenica 2’ group and a statement that the Kosovo Assembly does not recognize EULEX’s authority to judge the KLA. They also seek to annul amendments to the constitution paving the way for the Specialist Chambers.
Vetevendosje’s suggestions were ignored by the other parties.
The parliament had to take breaks on multiple occasions after harsh exchanges between MPs. Vetevendosje MP Fisnik Ismaili told PDK MP Shaip Muja that he was afraid the latter might “steal his kidneys.” Ismaili was referring to Dick Marty’s report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which accuses various Kosovo politicians of criminal activity including organ harvesting. Muja in return called Ismaili “a spy.”
Another opposition MP, Zafir Berisha from NISMA, blamed the criminal persecution of former KLA members on Kosovo’s current President Hashim Thaci, implying he has made a deal with the internationals.
“I propose that the first point of the resolution be: ‘Hashim Thaci is declared a traitor’,” said Berisha.
Assembly speaker Kadri Veseli had a hard time reining in the MPs, and kept asking them not to use the floor for personal attacks.
Thursday’s session ended for the night after Vetevendosje MP Glauk Konjufca and PDK MP Nuredin Lushtaku almost came to blows after the first quoted Sami Lushtaku, a PDK member and mayor of Skenderaj who has also been sentenced to jail for war crimes.
Veseli threatened to call security, telling the opposition that they would bring “misfortune” upon themselves by acting like this.
The next day, the Assembly put the discussed resolution to a vote and ratified it without much ado with 61 votes for, 11 abstentions, and no votes against.
Before the Assembly’s discussion, the European Union Office in Kosovo called upon Kosovo MPs to respect the separation of powers.
“Elected officials and public authorities, including members of parliament, should therefore refrain from calling into question court rulings as adherence to rule of law principles requires an unconditional respect for judicial decisions and the separation of powers,” a representative of the EU office in Kosovo told BIRN.
On Friday, NISMA MP Fatmir Limaj was also indicted for war crimes by the Kosovo Special Prosecution.
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