War Crimes Documentation Centre Opens in Kosovo

War Crimes Documentation Centre Opens in Kosovo

BalkanInsight_logoThe Humanitarian Law Centre has opened a war crimes documentation centre in Pristina with information from five Kosovo-related trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

The Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo said it opened the new documentation centre in Pristina so people can become better informed about crimes committed during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo.

“Even though we always hear people saying that they know what happened during the war, if you ask for more details, only few of them know the exact data,” Bekim Blakaj, the executive director of HLC Kosovo, told BIRN.

“Nowadays the war topic is being generalised, [in phrases] such as ’20,000 raped women’, ‘thousands killed’, but nothing more than that. We can’t create a collective memory about the war based on facts in this way,” Blakaj said.

War photos on display at the new war crimes documentation centre in Pristina. Photo: Sense Agency.

He added that apart from victims’ relatives, very few people know the exact data or facts about the war’s victims.

Photograph by Wade Goddard taken during the Kosovo war, exhibited at the documentation centre. Photo: BIRN.

“We hope that through this centre, information about war victims will be memorialised in a detailed way,” he said.
The films’ narrative was produced by the SENSE Transitional Justice Centre, and explains how the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia investigated, reconstructed and prosecuted the crimes committed in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999.The documentation centre’s first material was nine short films of 10-12 minutes, based on data from five trials at the Hague Tribunal – the cases against Slobodan MilosevicVlastimir DordevicNikola SainovicRamush Haradinaj and Fatmir Limaj.

“These films are divided into different topics such as ‘A Crime That was Waiting to Happen’, ‘The Delayed Crime Scene Investigation’, ‘The Last Exodus of the 20th Century’, ‘Survivors from Kosovo’s Killing Fields’, ‘No Corpse – No Crimes’, ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’, ‘Too Many Obstacles, Too Little Evidence, and ‘A Chain of Command without Commanders’,” Blakaj explained.

The documentation centre opened with two temporary exhibitions.

One features pictures taken during the war in Kosovo by the photographer Wade Goddard from New Zealand, and the other contains sculptures made from guns by Kosovo-based sculptor Ismet Jonuzi.

A helicopter made from weapons by sculptor Ismet Jonuzi. Photo: BIRN.

He also encouraged war survivors who want their stories to be heard to visit the centre and have them documented.“The centre will always be open to anyone who thinks that they can contribute, be involved in a project in any active way, such as with any publication or artistic work,” Blakaj said.

“This is the right place for war survivors who want to share their stories or for those who have items from wartime,” he said.

He said that when the new Kosovo Specialist Chambers, set up to try former Kosovo Liberation Army ex-guerrillas for wartime and post-war crimes, begins to hold hearings in The Hague, these will also be documented at the centre.