UN mission in Kosovo reopens court at centre of dispute

3 October 2008
Secretary-General's Special Representative Lamberto Zannier

The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) today reopened the courthouse in north Mitrovica, which ceased operations after it was stormed and occupied on 14 March by a mob of opponents to Kosovo’s independence.

Nearly seven months since the attack, the courthouse will reopen to be staffed with UNMIK international personnel, including two judges, two prosecutors, legal officers and administrative assistance.

“The reopening of the court in north Mitrovica is a first step to ensure that rule of law is provided to everyone in Kosovo,” said Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier. “I am pleased that Belgrade and Pristina are supporting this pragmatic development, which is in everyone’s interest.”

The UN envoy also acknowledged the need for regional participation in the court’s effective implementation.

“A court – like all rule of law institutions – does not stand in a vacuum. The Court’s success will require continued constructive actions by all sides and the support of the communities that it serves,” stated Mr. Zannier.

After it was occupied in March by some 40 people, including officers of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, UN forces attempted to reestablish control of the courthouse on 17 March which triggered violent attacks on UN police officers – resulting in one death and 42 officers sustaining injuries – and the task force redeploying to outside of the city.

In the initial phase of reopening, the prosecutors and international judges will be dealing only with urgent criminal cases, and implementing UNMIK law and procedure. Local judicial workers and court staff will be introduced in the following phase, which will increase the court’s capacity to handle more cases.

UNMIK was established in 1999 following a Security Council resolution that authorized an international civil and military presence in the region as part of a settlement to the ethnic conflict in Kosovo, which has a predominantly ethnic Albanian population.

In February this year, the Assembly of Kosovo's Provisional Institutions of Self-Government declared independence from Serbia, sparking some protests from Kosovo’s ethnic Serbian population.

This week at the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate, many European officials – including Hungarian, Czech and Albanian representatives – reiterated the ongoing need for the presence of UN its international partners in Kosovo.


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