Bronx, NY—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement:
“In Kosovo, President Hashim Thaci showed respect for the rule of law by stepping down from his office to face charges by the Special Court’s prosecutor. I will not comment on the specific charges he faces, but Congress will closely monitor the work of the Special Court to ensure that it upholds the rule of law and the rights of the accused in this and other cases.
“However, I must express my serious concerns about how the court has carried out its mandate. The statute that created the Special Court did not limit its reach to only Albanians. The ethnically-blind law creating the Court says that its jurisdiction extends to serious war-related crimes that took place in Kosovo during a specific war-time period. Sadly, it appears to be operating as an ethnic court—one that only pursues Albanians alleged to have committed crimes.
“I want to be clear: Anyone who commits serious war crimes must be prosecuted, regardless of ethnicity. But, the vast majority of crimes committed in Kosovo during this period were carried out by Milosevic’s army during its genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing. It raises extremely grave questions that although the law creating the Special Court is ethnically blind, it has only pursued Albanians.
“The closing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has only magnified this serious lapse because Serbian perpetrators no longer face an international justice mechanism. At the same time, Serbian courts, with only a few exceptions, have not held those responsible to account. Moreover, the murderers of the three American citizen Bytyci brothers have not been brought to justice, even though the perpetrators have been identified and are living in Serbia.
“I understand that Serbian government and military officials who were involved in the genocide are largely out of the direct reach of the Special Court. But, that doesn’t relieve it of its duties to prosecute offenders to the extent of the law, even in absentia. I, therefore, call upon the United States State Department and Justice Department to examine the work of the Special Court to ensure that it is not targeting people due their ethnicity and to halt U.S. support for or cooperation with the Court if it is found to be doing so.”
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