Kosovo’s parliament on Wednesday approved the creation of an international war crimes court to investigate allegations against ethnic Albanian guerillas during their conflict with Serbia in the late 1990s.
Pristina has been under pressure from the European Union to create the special court ever since a 2011 Council of Europe report alleged crimes including abductions, summary executions and, most controversially, the trafficking of prisoners’ organs by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998-99 war.
The report by the Council’s special rapporteur Dick Marty said the KLA, which fought Serbian armed forces during the conflict, had abused, tortured and killed 500 prisoners, mostly ethnic Serbs and Roma.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who was a commander during the war, had strongly opposed the creation of the court, calling it “unjust and the greatest insult” to Kosovo.
But he insisted it was “the only option” to prevent the establishment of a UN-sponsored external tribunal into the allegations.
Parliament approved the creation of the court by 89 votes to 22.
Marty accused Kosovo’s top political leaders, including Thaci and several of his closest allies, including current deputy parliament speaker Xhavit Haliti, of involvement in wartime crimes.
The report also implicated Fatmir Limaj, a former KLA commander who has previously been acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
The claims of illegal detentions, mafia-style murders and alleged organ trafficking were first brought up by Carla Del Ponte, the lead UN war crimes prosecutor, in a book she published in 2008.
Thaci and his government have denied the accusations and condemned Del Ponte and Marty’s claims.
The new war crimes court will be seated in Pristina, but “sensitive proceedings, including hearing of witnesses, would take place outside of the country in view of the nature of the allegations,” the EU mission in Kosovo said in a statement.
No date has yet been set for the court to be created.