CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
124. It was apparent during our visit to Kosovo in
March 1999 that one of the most important challenges facing the
administration in Kosovo was reestablishing the judicial and penal
systems. We heard much during our recent visit to suggest that
there were still serious problems in this area. One of the problems
from the outset has been that, because of Kosovo's legal status
as a constituent part of Yugoslavia, the UN legal department insisted
that Yugoslav law remained valid in Kosovo. This led to a boycott
of the judicial system by Kosovo Albanian judges, until December
1999, when UNMIK agreed that the law of Kosovo should be the law
which existed in Kosovo prior to the province's loss of autonomy
in 1989, with modifications to take account of international human
125. The main constraint since then, according to
the International Crisis Group (an NGO with expertise in Kosovo),
has been the poor security climate in Kosovo. This has meant that
Kosovo Albanian judges and prosecutors are unwilling to take cases
which involve ex-KLA fighters, for fear of intimidation. Another
issue has been the problem of Kosovo Albanian judges presiding
over cases involving Serbs. According to two experts in the area
there has been "well-documented evidence not only of judicial
bias but also, probably as importantly, of perceived bias."
This is not surprising given that "few families remain who
have not lost members to the other side".
One short term solution is to introduce more international judges:
there are currently 12, and five international prosecutors.
126. Appointing international judges can only be
a short term palliative, and eventually a self-sustaining system
must be established. Clearly training is part of the answer to
this problem: the OSCE has been conducting training for 100 local
But as long as there is a large backlog of serious cases, and
difficulties with local judges taking certain types of case, there
is an argument for increasing the number of international judges.
The Foreign Secretary made a joint statement with the UN Secretary
General in March 2000 which offered judicial assistance to Kosovo.
Mr Cook said that he expected "shortly to see at least a
dozen, perhaps more, of the British legal profession working to
help bring justice to Kosovo. The first should arrive before the
end of next month."
70 firm applications by members of the Bar and the judiciary were
made to go to Kosovo for at least 6 months, but only two of these
applications were accepted.
Alan Charlton of the FCO told us that "it is highly positive
that so many people from Britain have volunteered to go"
and went on to say that "this is a decision for UNMIK and
New York and we have been pressing this very point ourselves."
At the Committee's request, Mr Vaz has asked the United Kingdom
Mission in New York to take up the question of providing more
resources for international judges.
We recommend that the FCO continue to press UNMIK and UN headquarters
in New York to consider members of the United Kingdom legal profession
for positions in Kosovo. We welcome the FCO's effort to bring
up this issue again with the UN authorities, and wish to see the
results of this as soon as they are available.