THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — American lawyer Kimberly West has been appointed as the chief prosecutor linked to a European Union-backed court prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo, the prosecutor’s office announced Friday.
West replaces Jack Smith, who stood down as head of the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in November to become a U.S. Justice Department special counsel overseeing investigations into the retention of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, as well as aspects of an investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
“It is an honor to have been selected for this important and challenging role,” West said in a statement. “I am looking forward to joining the SPO and to taking its work forward.”
West currently works for a Boston law firm. From 2008-2013 she was part of the team at the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal that prosecuted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for crimes including genocide during the Bosnian war. Karadzic is serving a life sentence.
She is the third Specialist Prosecutor for the office based in The Hague, Netherlands, following Smith and David Schwendiman, who served from 2016-18. Another U.S. lawyer, Alex Whiting, will remain as acting specialist prosecutor until West takes up her new role.
The prosecutor’s office is linked to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a branch of the Kosovo legal system that was established in The Hague in part because of fears about witness safety and security.
The court and prosecutor’s office were created after a 2011 report by the Council of Europe into allegations of crimes including by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war for independence from Serbia.
Kosovo ex-President Hashim Thaci is currently on trial at the court with other defendants charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during his country’s 1998-99 war for independence from Serbia. Thaci and his co-defendants insist they are innocent.