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EU slams Kosovo justice mission's handling of corruption charges

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EU slams Kosovo justice mission's handling of corruption charges

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(BRUSSELS) - The EU published a report Tuesday saying its justice mission in Kosovo poorly handled allegations of corruption by opening a belated internal probe that only fuelled suspicions of a cover-up.

The report was made by Frenchman Jean Paul Jacque who spent several months examining how the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) managed allegations that some top EULEX officials accepted bribes to drop high-profile cases against local criminals.

The controversy was given widespread coverage in the Kosovo media.

"An investigation should have been opened at the outset," according to the report by Jacque who was assigned the task in November by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

"This would have prevented the issues that later arose in connection with the use of secret and special procedures, which fuelled suspicions of a cover-up that fortunately turned out to be unfounded," it said.

Neither the authorities in Pristina nor officials in the European Union's diplomatic service were informed of these exceptional procedures for several months.

Jacque did not tackle the claims at the heart of the case, which is still subject to a joint probe by EULEX and Kosovo judicial authorities that was launched in December 2013.

"This case has done considerable harm to the EULEX mission," Jacque said in his report.

"Set up to safeguard the rule of law, it has been accused of undermining that rule of law," the report said.

"Its credibility has been damaged to the point that its actions will henceforth often be tainted with suspicion," he added.

He recommended reforms to improve EULEX's effectiveness and credibility, otherwise "there is no point staying just to keep doing the same thing."

The bribery allegations were made last October by Maria Bamieh, a British prosecutor at EULEX, who has been suspended pending an internal inquiry into leaks of confidential documents.

She accused EU mission chief prosecutor Jaroslava Novotna, a Czech national, and former EU chief judge Francesco Florit of Italy of taking bribes from local criminals to drop three cases of organised crime, including murder. The bribes were allegedly taken in 2012 in 2013.

EULEX is the EU's largest civilian mission. It was launched in 2008 in order to strengthen the rule of law in Kosovo, just months after it broke away from Serbia. Currently it has some 1,500 members.

EULEX prosecutors and judges have the power to step in and take on sensitive cases that cannot be handled effectively by the local judiciary.

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