Kosovo: EU accused of 'intimidating' whistleblowers

Eulex is credited with creating a decent rank-and-file Kosovo police force, but failing to combat organised crime and high-level corruption.
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Transparency International, a leading NGO, has accused EU law chiefs in Kosovo of “intimidation” of potential whistleblowers. It spoke out on Tuesday (12 August) on the case of Maria Bamieh, a British prosecutor, who used to work for Eulex, the EU’s rule of law mission in Kosovo – the biggest and most expensive EU operation of its kind.

Bamieh, last year, lost her job amid a swirl of corruption allegations against Eulex. She then hired a UK law firm, Bindmans LLP, to hit back at the EU mission at the London Central Employment Tribunal, which is to hold its third hearing on the affair in September. But Eulex reacted by threatening both Bamieh and her solicitor, Peter Daly, with prosecution inside Kosovo under Kosovo law if they approached any “non-parties” to her case for information, referring to Eulex officials who could testify as potential witnesses. It also wrote to the London tribunal requesting a gag order on press reporting on any aspect of the proceedings.

For Transparency International, “the threat made to Bamieh by Eulex constitutes intimidation of anyone who could come forward to denounce corruption or mismanagement”. Its statement added that “Eulex should set the example of how a whistleblower should be treated to improve the current situation rather than send a message that anyone speaking up about corruption faces the threat of prosecution”. Eulex is currently drafting a response to the NGO’s complaint.

But it previously said Bamieh is not a “whistleblower”, citing a report into the affair by Jean Paul Jacque, a French law professor, who said, in April, that Bamieh doesn’t meet the legal criteria for whistleblower protection in terms of European Court of Human Rights precedents. It also said details of the Bamieh proceedings should be kept out of media to protect the privacy of Eulex staff accused of wrongdoing.

Jacque report

The Jacque report, which was commissioned by the EU foreign service, the institution which governs Eulex, depicted Bamieh as a flaky character who lost her job because she flunked an interview. It also said Eulex did nothing wrong in threatening a reporter for the Kosovar daily, Koha Ditore, with prosecution if he published details of the Eulex corruption allegations. The allegations involve accepting bribes in order to quash a murder investigation. They are currently subject to a separate, internal, Eulex inquiry.

Meanwhile, Jacque, himself a former EU official who did the report pro-bono, painted a withering picture of Eulex’ performance over the past seven years. He said “corruption is omnipresent” in Kosovo and that Eulex has failed to set up “the foundations of a system capable of fighting” criminality. He also said it should be subject to an independent oversight body and described its internal governance as “dysfunctional”.

EU Observer

13 August 2015