HRW urges EU "not to limit" EULEX probe

BRUSSELS -- Human Rights Watch has sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini saying that the EULEX corruption investigation should not be limited.

(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)

The open letter, signed by Lotte Leicht, the NGO's EU director, expresses concern over the serious allegations of abuses and corruption in the EU mission in Kosovo, presented in a series of articles in the Pristina-based Koha Ditore based on statements made by EULEX prosecutor Maria Bamieh, who was later suspended.

The letter welcomes the appointment of Jean Paul Jacque to look into the allegations, but warns that the mandate should be expanded:

"That investigation should not be limited to the corruption allegations raised by the former EULEX prosecutor but should include all credible allegations of corruption implicating the mission and its current and former staff. In addition, for transparency and credibility, and given the vital importance for the rule of law that these allegations are addressed, and are seen to be addressed fairly and firmly, Mr. Jacque’s findings should be made public."

The letter adds that the NGO is "seriously concerned by allegations from a trusted local journalist, Vehbi Kajtazi, that EULEX officials pressured him to stop his reporting on the corruption claims."

Kajtazi claims that EULEX representatives "requested him to hand over his materials on the corruption allegations against EULEX, which he refused to do," after which he was told "he should be careful not to publish information about cases under EULEX investigation as he may be accused of revealing secret materials."

According to the HRW letter, "Kajtazi perceived this as a veiled threat."

EULEX officials have denied that the journalist was threatened.

The HRW letter notes that the case should be thoroughly investigated, as "free and independent media are cornerstones in any democracy and contribute to strengthen the rule of law."