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EU-backed court in The Hague to judge Kosovo war crimes

A new court is being set up in the Netherlands to hear war crime cases from the 1999-2000 Kosovo war. The court is expected to begin hearings later this year.

The Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution is being funded by the European Union and will hear cases in The Netherlands.

The Dutch foreign ministry admitted in a statement on Friday that trying war crimes was "a sensitive issue in Kosovo." The ministry statement went on to explain: "possible suspects may be seen by sections of Kosovan society as freedom fighters, and witnesses may feel threatened in Kosovo." As a result, the decision had been taken to hold the trials in The Netherlands.

It will hear cases of serious crimes alleged to have been committed at the turn of the last millennium by ethnic Albanian members of the Kosovo Liberation Army against ethnic minorities and political opponents.

Split from Serbia

Over two years in the late 1990s, Albanian guerrillas (photo) fought for independence for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo from the government in Belgrade. Serbian forces withdrew from the area after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign.

Most of Kosovo's ethnic Serb population relocated to Serbia following orchestrated violence - labeled ethnic cleansing - after 1999. The conflict led to Kosovo splitting from Serbia in 2008 after nearly a year of international administration.

The next round of EU-brokered talks between Belgrade and the Kosovo administration in Pristina are due to begin in Brussels on January 27. There has been local dissent over the talks. Kosovo wants to discuss "the border demarcation between the two states, Kosovo and Serbia, in 2016," its Minister for Dialogue, Edita Tahiri, said on Thursday.

EU membership application

Kosovo is hoping to join the European Union at some point in the future, and it has been in negotiations with Brussels since 2013. Its independence has still not been recognized by Serbia, or five of the 28 EU member states.

Also on Thursday, Kosovo's film industry received its first ever Oscar nomination for the short film "Shok," a UK-Kosovo co-production set during the conflict with Serbia.

jm/jil (Reuters, AFP)

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