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EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX)

EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX)

The EU Council has extended the EULEX Mission's mandate in Kosovo. The Mission will therefore speed up the transfer of its operations to other EU and local bodies, and focus its efforts on the development of Kosovo institutions. 

As the Autonomous Province of Kosovo-Metohija (KM) is virtually beyond the OWCP jurisdiction, this Office cannot undertake independent activities related to the investigation/prosecution of war crimes. Likewise, the OWCP has no access to the sites of such crimes, potential perpetrators, witnessees and victims, nor can it directly obtain data/documents relevant to its cases. In such circumstances, the OWCP has - ever since its inception - worked together with the UNMIK authorities. As of 2009, in compliance with the transfer of competence, cooperation has continued with EULEX, specifically with its Special Prosecutor's Office, War Crimes Investigation Unit and Department of Forensic Medicine (DFM). 

Mutual assistance includes a range of activities at all stages of proceedings: provision of relevant data/documentation; collection of evidence; examination of witnesses; crime scene investigations; etc. Further to the other party's request or for the purposes of a case addressed thereby, the party which has access to certain evidence undertakes relevant activities, whereupon it informs the requesting party about its findings and provides the materials sought. In some cases, evidentiary activities are carried out in the presence of both Offices' representatives, namely the competent OWCP deputy prosecutor and his/her EULEX counterpart. This is commonly the case with the examination of witnesses residing in the KM territory. Up to this point, several dozen witnesses have been interviewed through this mechanism.

Such cooperation has yielded good results in many cases addressed before the Belgrade Higher Court's War Crimes Department, as well as in those heard before the Mixed/International Councils in KM.

In view of the gradual transfer of competence from EULEX to the local authorities, it was necessary to define the modalities and forms of cooperation with the KM judicial authorities. Thus, pursuant to its Conclusion of 07 March 2013, the Serbian Government adopted the Procedures of Mutual Legal Assistance, as anticipated by the Technical IBM Implementation Protocol. The Procedures are intended to facilitate the handling of requests for mutual legal assistance between Serbia and provisional KM institutions. Pursuant to the Procedures, mutual legal assistance can only take general forms (provision of of acts/documents; exchange of information; performance of procedural activities).

According to the Procedures, which have become effective this year, EULEX is expected to act as a mediator: it should facilitate communication between the OWCP and provisional KM authorities through the transmission of requests for mutual legal assistance and replies to the same.

Full cooperation with EULEX was realized in the course of the identification and examination of mass gravesites in Batajnica, Petrovo Selo, Perućac and Raška. Joint efforts of the OWCP and EULEX teams started as early as at the investigative stage, which included the location of a mass grave at the site of a quarry, interviews with witnesses, site assessment/recording and collection of samples. A good example of cooperatuion was the identification and examination of a grave at the Rudnica quarry, with death remains of 53 victims. Substantial support to that operation was provided by the Department of Forensic Medicine (DFM), whose equipment allowed for easier and faster gravesite identification. In subsequence, the DFM and OWCP teams - including forensic experts, antropologists and pathologists - worked together on the site examination. The remains recovered were sent to the ICMP Office in Tuzla for DNA analyses, and subsequently delivered to the victims' families. The handover was carried out in the presence of the Serbian Commission on Missing Persons, OWCP and EULEX representatives.