CEOL - Kosovo to have new Penal Code based on former autonomy

PRISTINA, Dec 14, 1999 -- (AFP) Kosovo is to introduce laws based on the code used in the province before Belgrade scrapped its autonomy, said Bernard Kouchner, head of the UN interim administration (UNMIK) here Monday.

The move is part of a new package of legal and security measures aimed at combating violence in Kosovo, where Kouchner admitted efforts to protect "minorities, particuarly Serbs, have partially failed."

He was speaking at a press conference held to deliver an assessment of six months of international administration, alongside the commander of the international peacekeeping force (KFOR), General Klaus Reinhardt, and top administrators.

The new law will replace the Yugoslav code in place before NATO's March-June air war to oust Serbian forces from the province and which ethnic Albanian judges had refused to implement, blocking the legal system and causing a spirit of criminal impunity, Kouchner said.

He said otherwise it would be like "asking Nelson Mandela to operate under (South Africa's) apartheid law," although UNMIK had until now insisted that the Yugoslav code be used.

He said the new measures did not infringe UN Security Council resolution 1244 which ended the war and which called for substantial autonomy -- but not independence -- for Kosovo within Yugoslavia.

He also announced the appointment of around 400 new judges and prosecutors, although the package stopped short of drafting in hundreds of ethnic Albanian former police officers and international judges, which UNMIK sources had said would be included.

Kouchner has asked for 4,800 UN police officers to be sent to the crime-ridden province but has received only 1,800. His administration has started training local officers -- both Albanian and Serb -- but so far only 170 are on patrol with UN police.

Reinhardt said his troops would also take a more active role in policing duties, with more troops to be assigned to "troubled areas" to free up police for extra patrols and investigative activities.

"Tactical, protective and security work will be handled by combined efforts of the police and KFOR, with UNMIK police taking the lead," Kouchner said.

The move has been viewed as a step backwards by some western observers, who point out that KFOR was supposed to transfer policing activities to the civilian authorities.

While levels of violence have dropped significantly since UNMIK arrived, crime is still widespread with almost daily attacks, kidnappings, arson and looting.

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