The President of the Specialized Chambers of Kosovo Ekaterina Trendafilova says that the court will provide an impartial and fair trial to the accused, but also that it will prosecute those who try to in any way threaten the safety of victims and witnesses or exert any kind of pressure on judges, report Serbian media.
-Everyone who tries to intimidate witnesses or try to pressure judges will be immediately prosecuted. Investigation will follow and we will not hesitate to apply the law, Trendafilova stresses in an exclusive interview with Tanjug agency, before the beginning of the work of this court.
Trendafilova points that she does not threaten anyone, but she calls to the valid legislation that sanctions such cases.
– There were no pressures so far, and I believe that nobody would dare to think about scenario of the influence on a judge or pressure – she stresses and points that, otherwise, the court will not hesitate to sanction any cases of witness intimidation and non-respect of other rules in relation to proceedings before that court.
This would, as she explains, be treated as a criminal offense of “interference in the implementation of justice”.
When asked by Tanjug on how witnesses will be protected since many of those who testified in “Kosovo cases”, before the Hague Tribunal, died in suspicious circumstances during the proceedings, Trendafilova points out that there are no court decisions to confirm those doubts.
At the same time, she points out that the protection of witnesses and all other persons who may be at risk due to some testimony are the priority of the institution headed by her.
-We have a very strong witness protection program, with a number of protection measures, and a special Witness Protection Unit has been established, which will take care of them to provide them with protection and support, says Trendafilova.
Among other things, she adds, usual protective measures will be taken, such as excluding the public from some part of the trial, protecting the identity of the witness, assignment of pseudonyms.
Trendafilova also notes that in the courtroom, the voice of the witness can be changed by the distortions, and that their face can be “smeared” up to the unrecognizability.
The court, according to the president of the Specialized Chambers of Kosovo, is fully “committed to ensuring safe and secure processes”.
-We will not share justice at the cost of life and security of anyone. If we are not completely sure of the safety of everyone who could be at risk, we will not continue to act, she says.
Trendafilova confirms that this court will be able to use the evidence collected and carried out during the trial before the Hague Tribunal, but, as she points out, the Trial Chamber will “weigh” and appreciate their weight when making a decision.
Also, the evidence collected by the EU Mission, EULEX, then the Special Investigation Team, as well as the Office of the Special Prosecutor in Pristina, will be able to be used before this court.
Asked whether she notices the negative attitude of the public in Kosovo towards the court she heads, Trendafilova says that she had recently visited Pristina and had no such impression, but contrary, she had a very constructive conversation with the media, civil society organizations, as well as with the Kosovo Minister of Justice.
When it comes to cooperation with Belgrade and Pristina during the court proceedings regarding the delivery of documents and the possible arrest and extradition of the accused, Trendafilova says that this would be said after the first indictments are issued, on which depends the forms of cooperation.
In this context, she points out that the Specialized Chambers are independent institution that has full legal capacity to conclude arrangements and agreements with the states, organizations and entities that are necessary for the work of the court.
Depending on the need of the case, she says, the court panel will decide whether to conclude a cooperation agreement and with whom.
Asked why the court’s seat is in The Hague, Trendafilova says that it was foreseen by the Law on Specialist Chambers of Kosovo and the Special Prosecutor, that the Kosovo parliament brought, but that the same law stipulates and that the court could have an office in Kosovo or some other state.
-The law also foresaw the possibility for the court to sit in some other place, but only in exceptional cases, when there is concern about sensitive processes or witness protection, in order to ensure safe and coherent trials without the fear of those who are willing to cooperate with the Specialized Councils Kosovo, she notes.
At the moment, the court is in The Hague, but, as she points out, it does not mean that some offices will not be opened in Pristina or elsewhere if there is a need for it.
According to her, the right to defence is just as important as the protection of victims.
-It is a balance that we are extremely careful about. On the one hand, we are looking after witnesses and victims and, on the other, the rights of those who will be charged with this court, says the president of the Specialized Chambers.
These are, as she points out, the two most important things that the court will take care of in order to ensure that the court proceedings are safe, independent, neutral and to bring justice to everyone, whether it is victims or accused.
-Only this way we can convince people that we are an institution that respects the rule of law and highly respect the rights of all participants in the proceedings, Trendafilova stresses.
After the New Year, she announces that the court will publish regulations for official defence, which will envisage that defendants, who are not able to pay the court costs of representing lawyers, will be provided the defence who will be paid by the court in full or in a certain part of the costs.
According to Trendafilova, the court is still waiting for the Special Prosecutor’s Office to file the first indictment.
-We started work on July 5. We are ready and we are waiting. As soon as we get the indictments, we will continue with our judicial work, concludes the president of the Specialized Chambers.