A former head judge for the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, Malcolm Simmons – who resigned amid much controversy in 2017 – says he wishes to inform the Kosovo parliament of the wrongdoings he claims he witnessed during his time in office.
A former chief judge for the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, Malcolm Simmons, has asked to tell the Kosovo Assembly about the alleged wrongdoings he said he witnessed in his time in office, the head of Kosovo Parliamentary Commission on Legislation, Shkemb Manaj, told BIRN on Wednesday.
“Simmons has requested the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry to deal with international justice in Kosovo, respectively with the issues that have been addressed in EULEX, and has expressed readiness to participate as a witness if this potential inquiry commission is established,” Manaj told BIRN.
He said that his letter, which the Kosovo media outlet Express says was sent to parliament in July, was discussed on Wednesday at the Parliamentary Commission on Legislation.
“If the media reports are true, this will not be the first time Simmons has tried to present his own, one-sided, and uncorroborated version of alleged wrongdoings during his time as a judge at the EU Rule of Law Mission,” EULEX Press Office told BIRN.
Simmons resigned abruptly as a judge in 2017 after being appointed in 2014. He then made a string of accusations against EULEX, which then revealed that Simmons himself was the subject of several investigations into alleged wrongdoing.
According to his letter, published by Express, Simmons says he witnessed multiple cases of misconduct that would prove that individuals responsible for the administration of justice illegally interfered with justice in Kosovo.
He said he would give evidence about matters that included “interference in criminal investigations; threats made to protective witnesses; inducements given to protected witnesses; manipulation of trial panels; attempts to interfere in criminal trials; concealment of evidence; manipulation of evidence; concealing evidence of the commission of criminal offences; attempts to obstruct criminal investigations; unlawful accessing of private emails; obstructing investigations; obstructing justice; interference in criminal cases to further political objectives”, the letter reads.
EULEX told BIRN that Simmons had “refused to cooperate with an investigation team led by a retired judge of the European Court of Justice”, established to investigate previous similar allegations. “When provided with the opportunity to substantiate his various allegations, Mr Simmons failed to provide the investigation team with any evidence to support his allegations,” EULEX said.
According to EULEX, “allegations of possible misconduct by Mr Simmons in three individual cases during his time as a judge at the EU Rule of Law Mission were investigated and finalized” in a probe also led by a former Judge of the European Court of Justice.
“In all three cases, the advice of the disciplinary board was agreed upon by the responsible authorities”, however, “the final decision on what measures to take in response to the advice of the disciplinary board regarding Mr Simmons’ misconduct lies with his seconding authority in the UK”.
EULEX claims that when Simmons “brought legal proceedings before the Employment Tribunal in the United Kingdom against his employer in the UK in which he again referred to these same allegations against EULEX”, in 2019, “the Employment Tribunal, a British Court, dismissed Mr Simmons’ claim to have the EU Rule of Law Mission participate in these proceedings”.
Simmons claims that in 2016, the then UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, now Prime Minister, told him in a meeting that the Kosovo Specialist Chambers was just “a political court bending to the will of Brussels”.
The so-called Special Court is part of Kosovo’s justice system but is located in the Netherlands and is comprised of international staff.
It was formed under pressure from the Western powers to try former members of the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, for alleged crimes they had committed in the war of independence from Serbia. It is unpopular among Albanians who consider its mandate one-sided.
So far, the Special-Court has accused five former KLA members of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the recently resigned President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci.
Two leaders of the KLA War Veterans Organisation are waiting for their indictments to be confirmed after being arrested for obstruction of justice. EULEX did not respond to these allegations.
Manaj explains that there are two options, either Kosovo MPs establish an inquiry commission into international justice within Kosovo, or Simmons should be allowed to address MPs in a parliamentary hearing.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Commission on Legislation, he told BIRN, “we had various debates on whether or not the Assembly has the right to establish a parliamentary inquiry commission on the issue of justice due to the separation of powers”, adding that so far MPs have not requested the establishment of such an inquiry.
“In the meeting, I said that if there is a change, and if six MPs want the establishment of such an inquiry commission, we should start the initiative,” Manaj said.
According to the Kosovo Assembly rules, “any substantive motion supported by six or more deputies of the Assembly is to be included in the agenda of the plenary meeting of the Assembly within three weeks of work.”
For a commission to be then established, the votes of a third of all MPs are needed, which means a total of 40 out of 120 MPs in the Assembly. BIRN has contacted the EULEX office in Prishtina seeking comments, and it promised to respond shortly.
25 November 2020 - 17:56