Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fourth Report


Court system

215.  An effective police system must be complemented by an effective court system. Mr Vaz has said that he is "satisfied with progress towards the re-establishment of an independent, impartial, multi-ethnic and effective judiciary in Kosovo." He explained that the basis of applicable law had been altered to pre-1989 laws so as to eliminate discriminatory legislation passed after that date; that Council of Europe experts were reviewing Kosovo's laws to ensure that they complied with international standards, and that the OSCE was providing intensive training to local judiciary.[545] However, despite this, the Foreign Secretary told us that Kosovo does not at present have a court system which works.[546] One of the problems is the difficulty for practitioners in returning to a system which they were forced to abandon over ten years ago.

216.  Another principal problems has been UNMIK's early insistence that judges and prosecutors should be local Kosovans. Unfortunately, as was graphically documented in material which we received from Mr Stephen Solley QC, the Chairman of the Bar Human Rights Committee,[547] this resulted in unfair trials: Serb judges were intimidated while several Albanian judges delivered perverse and biased verdicts. Witnesses were also intimidated. We were given further evidence of these problems during our visit to Kosovo where senior KFOR commanders told us that no fair trials were possible for inter-ethnic crimes, while mono-ethnic crimes were extremely difficult to investigate. The Bar Human Rights Committee recommended that international judges and prosecutors should be appointed; that international judges should sit alone or, if it was felt expedient that local judiciary should be involved, there should be safeguards against bias; that there should be a thorough programme of judicial training; that defence counsel should be available from outside Kosovo, and that witnesses should be protected.

217.  After initially attempting to rely on local prosecutors and judges, Dr Kouchner changed his policy and issued a regulation earlier this year allowing the appointment of international judges and prosecutors to strengthen the Kosovan legal system.[548] We recognise the desirability of ensuring, to the maximum extent possible, that the people of Kosovo run their own affairs, but it is clear that the involvement of international judiciary and prosecutors was necessary if all the people of Kosovo were to have confidence in their courts. This will have the particular benefit of allowing trials of local war criminals to begin, so helping the process of reconciliation. The UN Secretary General appealed in his March report[549] for all Member States to provide international judges and prosecutors. The Foreign Secretary announced on 14 March that the United Kingdom would be responding to this appeal; that 40 British lawyers had expressed interest, that he would expect to see "at least a dozen, perhaps more, of the British legal profession" helping to bring justice to Kosovo and that he hoped that some of these would take up post in April 2000.[550] We welcome this decision by the Government. We note that the Bar Human Rights Committee suggested that the international lawyers sent to Kosovo should be "preferably from other European Civil Law jurisdictions." In these circumstances, we do not believe that this is an area where the United Kingdom should be expected to be in the lead, though Scottish lawyers may be able to be of particular assistance.

218.  There are other material needs for the courts which the OSCE has outlined, ranging from computers to desks, chairs and stationery.[551] As the OSCE says, these modest material needs are essential for an efficient court system. We recommend that the British Government should contribute to the material needs of the courts of Kosovo, as identified by the OSCE.

Prison and other penalties

219.  In Glogovac we met officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Seattle (USA) police and the Finnish police. They operated out of the former police station, which had been the scene of abuses committed by the Serbs and catalogued by Human Rights Watch. There was clear frustration among the international officers at the absence of effective sanctions against offenders. On one occasion, a serious offender had been taken to Pristina, but had been freed because of the absence of space in prison and had been back in Glogovac before the officers who had taken him to Pristina.

220.  The courts must be able to impose effective sanctions on those convicted of crimes. This part of the criminal justice chain is also deficient. With only limited numbers of prison places available, only serous offenders and those accused of serious offences can be detained, while others can neither be detained nor subject to other effective penalties. For example, community penalties involving supervision are simply not practical in Kosovo.[552] The Foreign Secretary acknowledged the problem, and told us that the United Kingdom had contributed £1 million to provide emergency places of detention.[553] The UN Secretary General has appealed for all Member States of the UN to provide UNMIK with penal experts.[554] We believe that the absence of a functioning prison system is a very serious problem for Kosovo, and we recommend that the British Government consider as a matter of urgency sending experienced prison staff to assist in its development.

Economic and infrastructure reconstruction

221.  We have already referred to the Foreign Secretary's description of Kosovo as "an impoverished province which has been further ravished by the conflict."[555] He also reminded us that Kosovo was the poorest province of one of the poorest countries in Europe; where there had never been a transition from the inefficiencies of communism, and that Milosevic had starved the economy of resources since 1989.[556] A typical example is the transport sector, described in the December 1999 Report of the UN Secretary General as "in bad repair owing to poor infrastructure, lack of investment and maintenance and some destruction during the conflict."[557] Dr Jones Parry told us that the international community was more focussed on the sustainable economic development of Kosovo than it had been in the case of Bosnia.[558] We certainly saw an impressive effort in Kosovo to rebuild houses, schools and hospitals, much of the work undertaken by locals. The reconstruction is being funded by an impressive range of governments and NGOs, often in partnership. For example, re-roofing in Glogovac has been funded by the Japanese government working through an Italian NGO. The Foreign Secretary told us that "there is a great deal yet to be done," and that is apparent both from visiting the territory and from the Report of the UN Secretary General, but we also agree with the Foreign Secretary that "what has been done is a credit to those who have worked in Kosovo throughout the winter."[559] We believe that UNMIK and KFOR have made an impressive beginning in the reconstruction of the economy and infrastructure of Kosovo.

Reconstructing Glogovac

222.  Of the 31 school buildings in the Glogovac municipality, 10 were totally destroyed and 20 needed repair. 18 of the 20 were repaired by February 2000, and rebuilding of others has begun. As far as domestic buildings are concerned, only 295 out of 8,537 houses were undamaged. 2,640 were totally destroyed, and 2,593 were left roofless. By the time of our visit, 1,640 new roofs had been provided and 3,680 houses improved. Social welfare payments were also being made to 4,000 families, covering the over 70s, single parent families and the disabled. Payments averaged DM90 per month. There had been a programme to provide seeds for winter wheat for 500 farmers. They had shown dedication in planting the seed in time, even where they had had to do so by hand because of the destruction of their tractors. A great deal remains to be done. We saw how the largest local employer, the Feronikel plant, had been destroyed both by NATO bombs—the plant was alleged to have been used as a torture centre by the Serbs—and by the retreating Yugoslav forces.

223.  There were a number of concerns brought to our attention in Kosovo. The first is for an efficient tax system to be developed. The Kosovo Albanian population had traditionally tried to evade taxation due to be paid to the Milosevic regime, and instead informal taxation systems operated to fund, for example, the alternative education system.[560] UNMIK, led in this area by the Briton Joly Dixon, has operated a customs service since September 1999 collecting taxes at the international boundaries, and, since January 2000, at the administrative borders with Serbia and Montenegro—though one adverse consequence, which we experienced ourselves, has been the inordinate length of queues of lorries at the borders. From March 2000, a tax on hotels, food and beverages where establishments have gross monthly receipts of more than DM15,000 have been payable. We agree with the emphasis which UNMIK has placed upon the collection of revenue: it is an indication of normality and will begin to demonstrate to Kosovans that they cannot be dependent on the international donor community indefinitely. As the Foreign Secretary put it,[561] "as Kosovo progresses, it is not unreasonable to expect a gradual transition to what was envisaged in [UNSCR] 1244...that UNMIK will meet many of its costs for services in Kosovo from developing a tax system." However, we were given several anecdotal accounts of how armed men had evaded their tax dues, and we are under no illusions that establishing a normal Western taxation system will prove easy. We recommend that, once a functioning criminal justice system is in place, UNMIK and KFOR should deal vigorously with those accused of evading taxes.

224.  A second major concern is the jobs crisis which Kosovo is facing. Kosovo has the highest formal unemployment rate in Europe—estimated at over 50 per cent. This has been caused by a number of factors, including damage during the war, the destruction of businesses and previous discriminatory employment practices.[562] Since the war ended, urban unemployment has also increased because of the shift of people from the rural areas to the cities (Pristina has housing for 300,000 but has a population of 500,000). The potential problems of disaffection are obvious. Equally worrying is the danger of dependency on international donors. Any precipitate return of refugees[563] would only exacerbate this problem. There is no shortage of work which could be made available. A very obvious example is the need to clean up the enormous levels of rubbish seen throughout Kosovo: a sustainable waste disposal strategy could involve the employment of a substantial number of Kosovans. Another example is the potential for the development of small businesses where a legal framework in which they can operate needs to be developed. Unless the international community takes urgent action to alleviate unemployment, the consequences will be grave. We believe that large scale unemployment is one of the most major problems which Kosovo faces, and that urgent consideration should be given to the development of successful employment schemes.

225.  The desirability of inward investment is also obvious. However several witnesses told us that uncertainty about the future status of Kosovo would deter investors. As Jonathan Steele said "the unclarity, the ambiguity, of the present position makes it very difficult for any foreign investor to even think of investing,"[564] a point repeated by Jane Sharp.[565] Practical difficulties arising from ownership disputes were drawn to our attention in Kosovo—major potential foreign investments had not been able to go ahead because Albanians were unwilling to recognise Serb ownership of assets in Kosovo—and UNMIK has no mandate to expropriate these assets. If land belongs to the State, UNMIK interprets that as meaning that the land belongs to the FRY. This causes obvious problems. There is thus no body which can in practice decide questions of ownership in Kosovo. We return later[566] to the question of the future status of Kosovo.

Promoting the establishment of autonomy and self government


226.  One of UNMIK's responsibilities is to ensure that Kosovans come increasingly to run their own affairs. One aspect of this is the involvement of more and more Kosovans in UNMIK's administration at all levels. Those to whom we spoke in Kosovo were well aware that a colonial-type administration can give rise to great resentment in the indigenous population. KFOR commanders told us, for example, that there had been some cooling in the Albanians' initial flush of enthusiasm for KFOR. The precedent of the souring of the initial enthusiasm of the nationalist community for the army in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s is all too obvious. Yet the continued enthusiasm of the local population, particularly schoolchildren, for KFOR, and for the British, was very evident to us.

Kosovo Serb Political Parties

Functions mainly in Pristina and Gujilane regions. Regarded as a moderate influence, it is headed by Bishop Artemije, whose representative, Father Sava, we met at Gracanica. The Council opposes Milosevic, and is active in the Yugoslav opposition.

Is based in Mitrovica, and is led by Oliver Ivanovic and Vuko Antonijevic. It has tried to keep its distance both from Milosevic and the Yugoslav opposition.

Led by Mr Odalovic, is pro-Milosevic, and linked to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Committee for Cooperation with UNMIK.

Kosovo Albanian Political Parties

With Kosovo's first post-war elections scheduled for the autumn, a number of new political parties are being formed.[567] We met the leaders of the three main parties in Kosovo:

Ledhje Demokratike te Kosoves—LDK, is led by Dr Ibrahim Rugova. Prior to the war, the LDK was the dominant political movement in Kosovo. It oversaw the workings of the parallel state and the government in exile. It largely disintegrated during the war but since June 1999 it has been rebuilding itself in the main towns. The LDK has very little support in rural areas but has strong support amongst the Pristina urban elite. With the KLA increasingly being associated with crime and corruption in Kosovo, the LDK is biding its time by quietly reconstructing itself.

Partia e Progresit Demokratik te Kosoves—PPDK, is led by a 21-member presidency headed by Hashim Thaci, former political head of the KLA. Comprises a coalition of former KLA political groups which merged in September 1999, following the demilitarisation agreement. The political profile of its members ranges from left to right, from radical to liberal. Initially, the party was popular but during last winter it is said to have alienated many urban Kosovo Albanians due to its patronising attitude and its members' alleged involvement in crime, extortion and corruption. The only reliable current support is from former KLA activists and rural people from the Drenica heartlands.

Levizja e Bashkuar Demokratike—LDB, is led by Professor Rexhep Qosja. This party is said to be somewhat on the wane. The party's principal support is amongst some intellectuals and the diaspora.

227.  A Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS) has now been established. According to the UN Secretary General's March report, this "marked an important step towards the sharing of administrative responsibility with the local population".[568] Twenty Departments of Government for Kosovo have been identified, and it is intended that each should be run by an international and a local co-head. The 20 local posts are to be distributed on a basis of five for each of the three main Kosovo Albanian parties, two for Kosovo Serbs, one for a Kosovo Bosniac, one for a Kosovo Turk and one for an independent. However, the Kosovo Serbs have not yet taken up their posts in the JIAS, though, as the Foreign Secretary told us,[569] Bishop Artemije has shown some willingness to do so. The administrative Departments report to a Joint Interim Administrative Council (JIAC) which has met, on average, once a week since December 1999. In addition, a Kosovo Transitional Council (KTC) consisting of 35 representatives of civil society, political parties, religious groups and national communities was formed in February 2000.[570] Only one Serb was participating in the KTC at the time of the UN Secretary General's March report.[571]

228.  Complementary developments have taken place at the municipal level, where UNMIK administrators have established councils and administrative boards. As we heard from the British UNMIK municipal administrator in Glogovac, Mr Ian Sumnell, it had been a difficult job to de-politicise the selection of personnel for the municipal boards, but this is gradually being done.


229.  The next stage in political development is for there to be elections in Kosovo. But there are difficult issues to confront beforehand. These include how all those entitled to vote can be registered, how Kosovo can be encouraged to develop "normal" political parties, and what competencies the elected bodies should have.

230.  It was clear from our discussions with Kosovo Albanian political leaders that the political groupings in Kosovo are based around personal and family allegiances and not ideology. The OSCE has been active in trying to build up the parties and is encouraging expectations of normal political life in the electorate. Initiatives such as the Citizen's Forum, the Political Party Service Centre and the formulation of regulations for political party registration and operation are described in the UN Secretary General's March report.[572] Dr Jones Parry told us that the Kosovan political parties were "something of a disappointment, but they need to be encouraged". Certainly it is important to develop loyalties beyond the family, village and clan.

231.  Dr Jones Parry drew attention to the work of the Westminster Foundation, which we also endorse.[573] The Westminster Foundation for Democracy has proved to be an effective means of supporting in a practical way the development of pluralist democratic institutions overseas. It told us that it had been able to move swiftly to address the issues arising from the Kosovo conflict, and had begun to implement two projects in Kosovo—one to support political parties, and the other to support young people's political and civil initiatives.[574] Other ideas are being considered, and we understand that the Foundation has applied for extra-budgetary financing from the FCO. One area of particular importance is the involvement of women in political life. Women's representation in Kosovan political life has traditionally been weak. Emphasis has been placed by Dr Kouchner on this. This is brought out in the March report of the UN Secretary General which refers to "efforts ... to place women in positions of leadership with JIAS both at central and municipal levels".[575] We did, however, hear of some disappointment by women's organisations in Kosovo that UNMIK appeared to be concentrating on increasing women's participation in NGOs as a substitute for participation in the political process. There are many other areas where the work of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy could bring enormous benefit at little cost. We recommend that the FCO consider special funding to support the work of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to promote the full involvement of all the people of Kosovo in its political life.

232.  Registration has been taking place in Kosovo since March 2000. Those who are classed as "habitual residents" are eligible to be registered, with an habitual resident defined as a person who fulfils one of these criteria: (a) having been born in Kosovo (b) having at least one parent born in Kosovo, or (c) having resided for at least five successive years in Kosovo. The term "habitual resident", of course, avoids any presumption about citizenship. The right to vote will be restricted to habitual residents who are able to prove residence on 1st January 1998. Any person entitled to vote who is presently resident outside Kosovo will be able to vote by post, and the UN has requested the help of the Serb and Montenegrin authorities in registering Kosovo Serb voters who are at present displaced to Serbia and Montenegro. The March Report of the UN Secretary General suggested that conditions had been attached to cooperation by Serbia.[576] We were also told by Father Sava at Gracanica that extremist Serbs were calling for a Serb boycott of the elections, in order to undermine them. They argue that participation in the elections would legitimise Serbia's loss of Kosovo. We are well aware that there will be profound difficulties in ensuring the Serb participation in the elections which will give them full legitimacy. Nevertheless, if only the Kosovo Albanians take part, it will be useful to have an indication of the levels of support for the various Kosovo Albanian political parties.

233.  UNMIK believes that municipal elections can be conducted approximately three months after voter registration is complete, though, as the UN Secretary General stresses, "the primary precondition for the conduct of registration and elections is the freedom of voters to participate without harassment or intimidation."[577] While we were in Kosovo it was suggested that elections could take place in September or October 2000. There has been slippage in this timetable since 1999. When Dr Jones Parry gave evidence in November 1999, he expressed the hope that elections could be held "by the end of the spring" and told us that "at least at the local level we need those elections ... by about August"—though he acknowledged the difficulties involved.[578] We recommend that the British Government encourage UNMIK to ensure that the conditions for holding local elections are met as soon as possible, providing material assistance as necessary.

234.  The elections to be held in 2000 will be local elections. There are disadvantages in hastening elections at a national level. Dame Pauline Neville-Jones told us that "it would benefit the extreme ... if we go bashing down the road of elections too fast."[579] The Foreign Secretary also emphasised that local elections would be "quite creative in terms of the politics of Kosovo" because of the accountability and responsibility it would give local politicians.[580] He clearly favoured a gradual approach, and he told us that municipal elections were "going to be a difficult enough task to organise and to get under way and to hold on a free and fair basis before we start thinking about anything wider of a province-wide character."[581] Although he told us that he did not rule out elections to the KTC, he was "not sure" that he would "be enthusiastic in the immediate future for elections to a body which did not itself have responsibility because that seems to me to run the risk that you end up with a body that, because it is not responsible for what is happening in Kosovo, does not itself have to be realistic in what it demands."[582] There was, however, some local support for elections to the KTC to be held simultaneously with the local elections. This should not be ruled out without serious consideration.

235.  All the Kosovo Albanian political leaders whom we met expected elections for a Kosovo Parliament and President to be held, though there was a division of opinion about whether local elections should be held before Kosovo-wide elections (and Hashim Thaci told us that it was more important to resolve the situation in Mitrovica than to hold elections). There is some work to do, however, before the terms under which a constituent assembly can be elected are agreed. The Rambouillet proposals included detailed provision for an Assembly with what the Foreign Secretary described as "remarkably over-generous representation for the Serb population".[583] Although Dr Rugova for one told us that he would be prepared to agree to special protection for national minorities, this is one of the difficult areas where decisions are yet to be taken. There is also the very difficult issue of the future status of Kosovo which a national body would undoubtedly wish to discuss, and which poses a number of difficult questions for the international community. We turn to these next. We endorse the Foreign Secretary's view that there should be no undue haste in calling elections to a Kosovo-wide body.

545   HC Deb 2 March 2000, col 400W. Back

546   QC470. Back

547   Material available from Bar Human Rights Committee, whose investigation was led by Mr Roger Thorn QC. Back

548   Regulation 2000/6-see HL Deb 16 March 2000 col WA232. Back

549   S/2000/177, para 154. Back

550   HC Deb 14 March 2000, col 161; edited transcript of doorstep interview given by Foreign Secretary, available at Back

551 Back

552   QC473. Back

553   QC470. Back

554   March Report, S/2000/177 para 154. Back

555   QC432. Back

556   QC424. Back

557   S/1999/1250 para 43. Back

558   QC102. Back

559   QC381. Back

560   QC479. Back

561   QC481. Back

562   March Report of Secretary General, S/2000/177 para 98. Back

563   See para 184. Back

564   QC191. Back

565   QC198. Back

566   See paras 236-248. Back

567   Since the Committee visited Kosovo, another party has been formed. Former KLA commander Ramush Hajradinaj has formed the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, which has brought together several minor parties and some influential Kosovo Albanian leaders. The AAK is now the third main political force in Kosovo behind Hashim Thaci's PPDK and Ibrahim Rugova's LDK. Back

568   S/2000/177 para 5. Back

569   QC407. Back

570   The JIAS (Joint Interim Administrative Structure) includes all the Administrative Departments and the JIAC (Joint Interim Administrative Council). The Administrative Departments report to the JIAC through the appropriate Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG). The JIAC consists of four UNMIK members and four Kosovo members -Thaci, Rugova and Qosja plus Rada Trajkovic(observer only for the time being). The JIAC is chaired by Dr Kouchner's Principal Deputy and a Kosovan co-chair (rotated every 2 months). Decisions are taken by consensus. The KTC (Kosovo Transitional Council) maintains a consultative role. Since the creation of the JIAS, it has been expanded to include representatives of civil society and smaller political parties. Sessions are usually held every two weeks. Kosovan members of the JIAC are also members of the KTC. The Special Representative of the Secretary General still has the last word: he can issue regulations based on the recommendations of the JIAC or on his own initiative. Back

571   S/2000/177 para 14. Back

572   S/2000/177, paras 119 to 122. Back

573   QC113. Back

574   Ev. pp. 359-360. Back

575   S/2000/177, para 5. Back

576   S/2000/177, para 137. Back

577   March Report, S/2000/177, para 140. Back

578   QQC109-110. Back

579   QC296. Back

580   QC447. Back

581   QC455. Back

582   QC458. Back

583   QC447. Back

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