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Kosovo Specialist Chambers: Termination of Investigation against Driton Lajçi

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office were established pursuant to an international agreement ratified by the Kosovo Assembly, a Constitutional Amendment and the Law on Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.

They are of temporary nature with a specific mandate and jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under Kosovo law, which were commenced or committed in Kosovo between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000 by or against citizens of Kosovo or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office have a seat in The Hague, the Netherlands. Their staff is international, as are the Judges, the Specialist Prosecutor and the Registrar.The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office are domestic institutions within the legal and constitutional framework of the Republic of Kosovo. Whilst the seat of the joint institutions is in The Hague, and they operate under separate substantive and procedural laws, they remain bound by Kosovan criminal procedural laws, the Constitution and the international treaties to which the State is bound, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

On 3 May 2019, the Special Prosecutors Office (SPO) notified Mr. Driton Lajçi that he was under investigation for alleged offences related to the administration of justice. Mr. Lajçi at that time, was employed as Head of Division for Coordinating Legal Protection and Financial Support for Potential Accused Persons in Trials before the Specialist Chambers at the Kosovo Ministry of Justice, a position he had held since 26 November 2018.

On 17 October 2019, Mr. Lajçi was interviewed by the SPO in The Hague as a suspect. He was represented by a legal team headed by Toby Cadman, appointed as his Specialist Counsel.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, Mr. Lajçi resigned from his government post on 2 November 2020.

Following what were considered procedural irregularities and disclosure failures in the interview process, a referral to the Constitutional Court Panel was filed on 14 November 2019. The Constitutional Court Panel declared the application inadmissible as ‘premature’ as he had not been charged.

On 11 December 2020, an application for termination of the investigation was made to the Specialist Prosecutor. The Specialist Prosecutor declined to terminate the investigation.

On 26 March 2021, a complaint was submitted on Mr. Lajçi’s behalf to the KSC Ombudsperson. No action was taken.

During the period of 2021-2023, three further requests were made to terminate the investigation on the basis that it had exceeded a reasonable time, as guaranteed under the applicable legal and constitutional framework. It was argued on Mr. Lajçi’s behalf, that there had been a significant period of unjustified delay and that delay was the responsibility of the relevant administrative and judicial authorities. Further, it was argued that the matter under review was not excessively complex, that any delay attributable to Mr. Lajçi was inconsequential and that any delay caused by the relevant administrative and judicial authorities were not attributable to him personally should be answered in his favour, not his detriment. That was clearly supported by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. The Specialist Chambers did not accept those submissions and rejected all requests to order the termination of the investigation.

Regrettably, the investigation remained open with no charges brought, leaving Mr. Lajçi in a state of uncertainty for four and a half years.

Despite the passage of time, and despite the obvious impact this has had on Mr. Lajçi, it is important to note that this matter has now been brought to an end. On 17 July 2023, the Specialist Prosecutor notified Mr. Lajçi that the decision had been taken, based on the information available, to terminate the present investigation.

The allegations made against Mr. Lajçi and subject to public dissemination have at all times been denied. Although the termination of the investigation by the Specialist Prosecutor was the proper and just decision, it is deeply regrettable that it has taken four and a half years to reach that decision.

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