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Kosovo court takes step toward indicting suspects

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A court investigating crimes against ethnic Serbs during and after Kosovo's 1998-99 independence war with Serbia took a significant step Monday toward charging suspects for the first time when a prosecutor notified the court's president of his intent to start proceedings.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which has its headquarters in The Hague, has been operating since 2015 but has not yet publicly indicted any suspects from the war that left more than 10,000 dead. It ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign.

A brief announcement by the court said that the Specialist Prosecutor, Jack Smith, "notified the President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers of his intent to initiate proceedings" and asked for a pre-trial judge to be assigned.

The pre-trial judge must review any indictment and the evidence supporting it before deciding whether to confirm the indictment, a process which can take up to six months. Only then will a suspect be informed of the accusations.

The court was set up following U.S. and EU pressure four years after a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights body, which cataloged allegations of widespread crimes committed by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, including the harvesting of organs for illicit transplants from a small number of prisoners.

Several high-ranking former members of the liberation army have been called to the court for questioning. Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned last July after being invited for questioning.

At the time of the war, Kosovo was a Serbian province and KLA members mostly were ethnic Albanians. A bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists and civilians led NATO to intervene by bombing Serbia in spring 1999.

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