Kosovo court to be established in The Hague

A special court is to be established in The Hague to try cases involving crimes committed during and in the immediate aftermath of the Kosovo War. The cabinet has consented to the European Union’s request to the Netherlands to host this Kosovo court.

The court, which is officially called the Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution, is expected to begin operating some time this year. It will be housed in the former Europol building once an extension has been built for a courtroom. In the meantime the court will be accommodated elsewhere in The Hague.

The court will try serious crimes allegedly committed in 1999-2000 by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army against ethnic minorities and political opponents. This is a sensitive issue in Kosovo. Possible suspects may be seen by sections of Kosovan society as freedom fighters, and witnesses may feel threatened in Kosovo. This is why the option of trying cases outside Kosovo was explored.

The decision to locate the court in The Hague was made following consultation between the EU and the Kosovan and Dutch authorities. The court will be paid for from EU funds.

‘It is important for justice to be done,’ said Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders. ‘So we are pleased to be able to offer the court a home.’ Mr Koenders and the Minister of Security and Justice, Ard van der Steur, indicated that the Netherlands believes it has a special responsibility in this respect as the host country of a number of international and other special criminal courts and tribunals. ‘This is a good opportunity to ensure justice is finally done and to hold people accountable for the wrongs they have committed,’ said Mr van der Steur.

The court, which is made up of international judges, is to be established under Kosovan law. This means it will not be an international tribunal, but a Kosovan national court that administers justice outside Kosovo. The court will operate according to the highest international standards of procedural law. Convicted persons will not serve their sentences in the Netherlands.

Mayor Jozias van Aartsen welcomes the court to The Hague, the city of peace and justice. ‘As long as there is no justice, there can be no truly lasting peace,’ he said. ‘That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that this court can do its work here in our city.’

The governments of the Netherlands and Kosovo have concluded a seat agreement which sets out the arrangements that apply to the court. The agreement still has to be approved by the parliaments of each country.