May 7, 2018 / 2:40 PM / in 7 months

New prosecutor named as Kosovo war crimes court keeps working on first indictments

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The court examining war crimes against ethnic Serbs in Kosovo said on Monday it has appointed a new chief prosecutor, who will pick up the court’s efforts to issue its first indictments, three years after it was established.

The court said U.S. prosecutor Jack Smith will succeed fellow American David Schwendiman, who stepped down on March 31, a setback for the court, which politicians in Kosovo have long tried to abolish.

The Specialist Chamber was set up in The Hague in 2015 to handle cases of alleged crimes by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas during the 1998-99 war that led to the country’s secession from Serbia.

The court has yet to hear any cases. Its prosecutors and judges are foreign, but it was established under Kosovan law and comes under Pristina’s jurisdiction. Kosovo lawmakers only this year gave up an attempt to repeal the law that created it.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after a NATO bombing campaign drove out Serbian troops. NATO launched the action in response to attacks by Serbian forces against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority during a two-year counter-insurgency war against the KLA.

Crimes committed by Serbian forces were punished by a Yugoslavia tribunal that closed in December last year, but incidents carried out by the KLA were mostly not covered.

Reporting by Bart Meijer, editing by Larry King

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