19 aprile 2008

Kosovo Constitution Rushed Through in 60 Days

Leaders say Foreign Experts to Blame for Controversial Language

By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.

(NEW YORK — C-FAM) A team of American and European pro-life non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met with top Kosovo officials last week to discuss problems with the draft constitution for the newly forming state. The team, which was led by C-FAM Vice President Susan Yoshihara, met with the President of Kosovo, the Speaker of the Parliament along with other members of Parliament.

These officials said that the influence of international experts explains the controversial nature of their new constitution, including special rights based on “sexual orientation” which they admit Kosovars overwhelmingly reject. The leaders said this just two days after the adoption of the Constitution during a series of meetings with the team which presented a petition on behalf of 44 U.S. and European pro-life and pro-family organizations.

President Fatmir Sedjiu told the group that he had “trusted the experts” that Kosovo was compelled to include sexual orientation so that Kosovo would have a “contemporary” understanding of international human rights. Jakup Krasniqi, president of Kosovo’s assembly, said that he had opposed the article but that UN, European Union, and Council of Europe representatives told him that the reference put Kosovo’s law in line with other European constitutions.

Kosovars criticized the fact that they were not allowed to see the draft Constitution though they were encouraged over the past year to offer “public comment.” They also objected to the fact that all of their comments to the constitutional commission, the small body of experts responsible for the drafting process, apparently needed review by the representative from an American NGO called the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) during the proceedings.

Kosovo’s religious leaders said the constitutional commission never sent them a copy of the draft document. After consenting to meet Catholic and Muslim leaders, the commission agreed to omit language that would have explicitly removed legal protection from the unborn, but never provided promised feedback on other complaints and instead claimed “consensus” had been reached.

Immediately after its adoption, the Kosovar press criticized the way officials rushed though the approval process after the February 17th declaration of independence. Rather than allowing the 120 days given by the UN, the EU special representative to Kosovo signed the law and passed it to the president on April 8th, who approved immediately and gave it to the assembly for a vote. The assembly never discussed or voted on the document, but gathered two days later and simply rose to applaud a final version. Kosovar Serb lawmakers remained seated and silent in protest.

In sharp contrast to other sources, the head of the new US embassy in Pristina, Tina Kaidanow, insisted there was “no international involvement” with the new constitution. She explained that the reason the constitution was withheld from Kosovars was because its release would have been problematic for the UN Security Council which could not agree on Kosovo’s independence, which Russia still opposes. The hurried pace of adoption was done in part to show the international community “progress” to gain recognition of sovereignty, she said.

The head of the constitutional commission, Hajredin Kuci, told the press that the pro-life/pro-family delegation’s intervention came “too late.” One Kosovar observer said, “It’s not that they were too late but that the approval was too early.”

Most of the lawmakers who met with the delegation said that they expected to handle the problems with the new constitution through legislation and possibly by amendment, all of which will have to be first approved by the new EU mission in Kosovo, EU-Lex, whose legal basis some European countries are now challenging.

The pro-life delegation included Stephen Bartulica from the Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe in Austria, Christine Dupuis from Chrétiens Démocrates Fédéraux in Belgium, Glen Lavy, senior vice president at the Alliance Defense Fund, Antun Lisec, director of Human Life International in Croatia, Carol Soelberg, president of United Families International, Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, and Susan Yoshihara, vice president for research at Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.


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