|David Schwendiman. Photo: Kosovo specialists prosecutor’s office|
David Schwendiman, the chief prosecutor at the new Hague-based special court set up to try former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters for crimes committed during and after the 1998-99 war said on Thursday that he will pursue the facts vigorously and not be influenced by outside pressures.
“I intend to do this job the way I have always done things in the past; fairly, vigorously, and without fear or favour,” US lawyer Schwendiman told the first press conference of the new Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague.
Schwendiman also insisted that he is completely independent.
“I don’t take instruction from anyone,” he said.
He said that he would conduct his investigations “based solely on the facts that we have and will continue to collect, and our best reading of the law” and would not be swayed by political or diplomatic considerations.
There has been speculation that those under investigation could include some senior Kosovo Liberation Army figures who are now top politicians, but Schwendiman said he would not comment on indictments, potential suspects and specific charges.
He said that such speculation does not serve “any legitimate purpose”.
The new court will hear cases arising from an EU Special Investigative Task Force report which said that unnamed KLA officials would face indictments for a “campaign of persecution” against Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians believed to be collaborators with the Belgrade regime.
The alleged crimes include killings, abductions, illegal detentions and sexual violence committed between January 1998 and the end of 2000.
‘Judicial activity’ at the new court is expected to begin in the first half of 2017, the press conference was told.
However, for the court to be become fully operational, it still needs final approval from parliament in The Netherlands.
Witness protection was one of the key subjects addressed at the press conference, in light of the challenges faced by prosecutors in KLA-related cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, when witness intimidation was cited as a major obstacle.
Schwendiman said he could not give any information about witnesses at the new court for their own safety.
“I will not discuss nor disclose information about our witnesses. Neither will I discuss our means and methods for protecting those who are vulnerable because of their role in our investigations,” he said.