Wednesday, October 01, 2008

War Crimes Trials Undermine Macedonia Coalition

The main Albanian party in Macedonia's government voiced anger with the announced trial procedures of ethnic Albanians accused of war crimes.

The cases of the four men have been returned from The Hague war crimes tribunal, ICTY, to Macedonia's courts, and one of the trials is set to start later this month.

The Democratic Union of Albanians, DUI, wants the cases dropped. "We believe the cases should subside under the amnesty law, so there would be be no court proceedings," a party source was quoted as telling the local Spic daily.

"But we still lack guaranties [of this] from our coalition partner", the source added, referring to the main party in government, the centre-right VMRO DPMNE.

The cases concern senior party officials, including the DUI president, Ali Ahmeti, charged with committing war crimes during the armed conflict in 2001, which pitted Albanian guerrillas from the now disbanded National Liberation Army, NLA, against Macedonia’s security forces. Ahmeti at the time headed the NLA.

The source also accused VMRO DPMNE's head, the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, of mounting a "policy of isolation" towards the EU and NATO. The source complained that Gruevski's tough rhetoric in the unresolved "name" row between Athens and Skopje was diminishing the chances of a solution.

A quick resolution of the dispute is needed if the country wishes enter NATO and subsequently the EU. In April, Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO bid, arguing that the use of the name Macedonia implied a territorial claim to the Greek northern province of the same name.

"If the country stays out of NATO and EU for a longer period, this could shake the coalition," the DUI source warned.

The formation of a VMRO DPMNE-DUI coalition after June general elections was heralded as a political breakthrough, because in 2001 VMRO DPMNE headed a government at war with the NLA.

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