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U.S. Again Warns Kosovo Against Trying To Abolish War Crimes Court

U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie (file photo)
U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie (file photo)

The U.S. Embassy in Kosovo has repeated its strong opposition to attempts by Kosovar leaders to abolish a new war crimes court set up to try ethnic Albanian ex-guerrillas.

The statement from Kosovo's traditionally close ally on December 29 warned that any renewed efforts to scrap the tribunal "would have profound negative consequences for Kosovo's European future and its relationship with the United States."

The court, based in The Hague, was set up to prosecute crimes allegedly committed by top members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as it battled Serbian forces in their 1998-1999 war.

It is poised to begin issuing indictments.

Dozens of Kosovo's lawmakers made a failed bid last week to revoke the law allowing the tribunal's work to go ahead, after war veterans handed in a petition saying the court was "biased."

"Kosovo's leaders have made repeated public statements this week that an initiative in the Kosovo Assembly regarding the Special Court won't damage Kosovo's international relationships. They are mistaken," said the U.S. Embassy statement.

"We are extremely disappointed at those who would sacrifice their country's future and the unwavering support of the United States, in favor of their personal interests."

U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie recently urged on Twitter for Kosovo not to "turn back the clock," and said: "We have not invested so much effort into Kosovo's success to see it destroy its future by undoing the Special Court Law."

Speculation is rife that Kosovar President Hashim Thaci, the former head of the KLA's political wing, could be among those prosecuted for the alleged kidnapping and disappearance of around 500 civilians, mostly ethnic Serbs.

Thaci told RFE/RL's Balkan Service this week that he would sign the legislation if it is approved by the parliament.

Despite operating under Kosovo's law, the tribunal is composed of international judges and prosecutors and will be seated in the Netherlands with the aim of protecting witnesses.

The conflict between the KLA and Serbian forces controlled by late strongman Slobodan Milosevic ended after a three-month NATO air campaign that forced Serbs out of Kosovo and put it under UN protection.

The war killed around 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters