EU Kosova court issues guilty verdict in first war crimes case

A court under the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) reached its first verdict March 3, sentencing Kosovar Albanian Gani Gashi to 17 years in jail for murder, attempted murder, and grievous bodily harm. A three-judge panel, composed of two EULEX judges and a judge from Kosova, found Gashi guilty of crimes committed during the Kosova-Serbian conflict in 1998-1999. The EULEX court is charged with aiding the restoration of the rule of law in Kosova. EULEX prosecutor Theo Jacobssaid: “This trial shows that EULEX is serious about investigating and prosecuting war crimes cases whenever they took place, as long as we have enough evidence for a successful prosecution to proceed.”

The court has had a difficult beginning since the EULEX formally began operations in December. On March 3, the trial of two Serbian defendants was derailed by hundreds of Serbian protesters and postponed indefinitely. Kosova seceded from Serbia in February 2008, and its new constitution went into effect in June. Kosova’s Declaration of Independence from Serbia was met with support from the EU, the US, and from many other countries. Serbia formally condemned the secession, citing its illegality under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999). (Jurist, March 4)

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