Kosovo independence fighters try to amend special court law

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PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Former fighters of Kosovo's independence movement began collecting signatures on Friday for a petition seeking to extend the jurisdiction of a war crimes court to include Serbs, their adversaries in their war for independence.

Three associations of Kosovo Liberation Army veterans aim to collect the 10,000 signatures needed to change a 2015 law governing the Kosovo Specialist Chambers court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, and which can currently prosecute ethnic Albanians but not Serbs for crimes committed during and immediately after the 1998-1999 war.

The court is made up of Judges from European Union member countries, the United States and Canada. It has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law.

In a reaction sent to The Associated Press, the court said that it has jurisdiction over all potential war crimes suspects who were citizens in Kosovo, which includes Kosovars and Serbs.

"The Specialist Chambers is not in position to know who and from which nationality will be those that the Specialist Prosecutor's Office (SPO) will choose to file charges against," it said, adding that selection of defendants is solely the domain of the special prosecutor's office.

The court is part of Kosovo's legal system set up and was initiated after a 2011 Council of Europe report that served as the launching pad for the Specialist Chambers.

The court's prosecutors are investigating allegations made in that report that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army ran detention centers where Serbs and other civilian captives were killed and their organs sold on the black market.

Earlier this month Kosovo President Hashim Thaci expressed doubts that the special court would "strengthen the feeling of justice for the war victims" since he and other Kosovars say it focuses on Kosovo Liberation Army fighters. He said that 100 such courts need to be created to cover all the war crimes committed by Serbia, and complained that the international community is discriminating against Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Belgrade has not recognized.

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