Kosovo president slams international war crimes court

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci speaks during an interview with AP on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018, in Kosovo capital Pristina. (AP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Kosovo president slams international war crimes court

PRISTINA, Kosovo: Kosovo's president on Wednesday called an international war crimes court with jurisdiction over potential Kosovar suspects a "historical injustice," adding his government only reluctantly accepted it as the "price for its liberty."
In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the 10th anniversary of Kosovo declaring independence from Serbia, Hashim Thaci slammed the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, as akin to creating a court to judge Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis in World War II.
"Kosovo held a defensive war for its existence as a nation and attacked no one," he said. "We have nothing to hide."
Kosovo's bloody war for independence ended with a 78-day NATO air campaign in June 1999, which stopped a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. The war left 13,000 dead and 20,000 Albanian women raped, according to Thaci.
Under U.S. and European pressure, Kosovo's government agreed in 2015 to set up the Kosovo war crimes court, known as the Special Chambers, to confront allegations that fighters with the Kosovo Liberation Army committed war crimes against ethnic Serbs from 1998 to 2000. The court, which has jurisdiction over Kosovo citizens, has yet to hear any cases.
U.S Ambassador to Kosovo Greg Delawie said Wednesday the court was meant to provide justice to the victims.
"The special court is not about whether the Kosovo Liberation Army struggle was right or not, if the KLA was good or was bad. It is about crimes committed by individual people against other individual people and the victims were all ethnic groups," he told the AP.
Thaci said war crimes by the Serb army, paramilitary and police have remained uninvestigated.
Some Kosovar lawmakers tried last year to amend the law and extend the court's jurisdiction over Serbs, their former adversaries in the war, but they appear to have stopped the efforts since.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, recognized by 115 nations but not by Serbia.


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 32 min 14 sec ago
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.