[JURIST] The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) [official website] on Friday reopened its courthouse [press release] in Kosovo's northern city of Mitrovica. The courts were closed after being taken over by Serbian protesters [JURIST report] in March as part of an ethnic conflict with Kosovar Albanians. The mission has said that only vital criminal court functions will be immediately resumed and UNMIK head Lamberto Zannier [appointment release] expressed guarded optimism on the future of the courts:
The reopening of the court in north Mitrovica is a first step to ensure that rule of law is provided to everyone in Kosovo. I am pleased that Belgrade and Pristina are supporting this pragmatic development, which is in everyones interest... However, a court like all rule of law institutions does not stand in a vacuum. The Courts success will require continued constructive actions by all sides and the support of the communities that it serves.AP has more. The UN Press Centre has additional coverage.
In May, the Steering Council of the Kosovo Judges' Association said courts in Kosovo's northern districts had been left in legal limbo [JURIST report] since the Assembly of Kosovo's February unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence [text; JURIST report] from Serbia. The Council expressed concern that courts in the region were unable to guarantee the protection of peoples' legal rights, a situation that could lead to the violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Fundamental Rights of and Freedoms [text]. Kosovo's new constitution [text] went into effect [JURIST report] in June despite a declaration by Serbian President Boris Tadic that the charter of the breakaway Serbian province was legally void.