Sunday, June 12, 2011

NATO Weighs In On Kosovo Security Forces' Role

The NATO-led mission in Kosovo says that a recent government memo proposing a new policing role for the Kosovo Security Forces has no legal basis.

Petrit Collaku

“There is no legal basis that can give the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, the right to carry out police duties,” Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Freier, a public relations officer for the the alliance's mission in Kosovo, told Balkan Insight.

“We are waiting for information from Kosovo's Minister of Security Forces, Agim Ceku, on this matter and we will look at it carefully,” he said, adding that after receiving this information they would forward it to NATO.

The internal memo, drafted by the Ministries of the Interior and of the Security Forces, proposed giving the KSF responsibilities that include riot control, holding individuals who have been arrested at protests at military barracks and work in protecting and escorting high-level local or international officials.

The document caused some controversy when it was published in local media, and Minister Ceku and Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi were summoned before a parliament security committee on Wednesday to explain the proposals.

The ministers told the committee said that they do not intend to make Kosovo a ‘police state’ but that their idea was to allow the security forces to help Kosovo police in emergency situations. They stressed that the memo was only a draft and could be reviewed. The ministers received a warm welcome in parliament, however, and the committee expressed their support for the two government officials.

Kosovo's Security Forces are governed by strict rules laid out under the Martti Ahtisaari’s package, which guides Kosovo's post-independence period.

According to the package: “The KSF will be designed and prepared to fulfil other security functions, not appropriate for the police or other law enforcement organizations. The International Military Presence, in coordination with the International Civilian Representative, will decide when to authorise the KSF to engage in these new security functions.”

The mission of the KSF is to conduct crisis response operations in Kosovo and abroad and assist the civil authorities in responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.

Such duties include search and rescue operations, explosive ordinance disposal, the control and clearance of hazardous materials, fire-fighting and other humanitarian tasks.

The KSF replaced the Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC, in January 2009. The territory's first quasi-military body was set up after the end of the 1998-99 war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces, and overwhelmingly comprised ethnic Albanian war veterans.

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