Kosovo approves court to try wartime leaders for war crimes

Kosovo's Parliament on Monday approved a constitutional amendment to set up a special court to prosecute former leaders over war crimes, including the killing of hundreds of Serb civilians.

The 120-seat legislature voted 82-5 in favor of the change, with several abstentions. The vote comes after pressure from Kosovo's Western backers to pass the legislation and avoid Russian demands to deal with the allegations. In June, Parliament failed to pass the legislation amid objections from former rebels who had become politicians.

International judges and prosecutors will be entirely in charge of the proceedings, which are to take place outside Kosovo, most likely in the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said the creation of the court reflects international charges that Kosovo's justice system is unable to handle the cases.

A 2010 Council of Europe report claimed that Hashim Thaci, a former rebel leader turned politician, ran a criminal ring with other guerrillas that targeted that targeted Serbs, Roma and fellow ethnic Albanians. Thaci has denied the claims.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians fought a separatist war against Serbia in 1998-99 and seceded in 2008 with strong backing from the United States. Many members of the now disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army are still considered heroes. Serbia rejects Kosovo's secession.