Maria Bamieh, a former prosecutor who accused the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, of wrongful termination after she raised concerns over corruption within the ranks, has won her first legal victory against her former employer.
In an ongoing case against in front of a British employment tribunal, the presiding judge dismissed EULEX’s request for a gag order and ruled in favor of Bamieh, who wanted the proceedings to be public. [©Prishtina Insight]
Bamieh, now based in London, is accusing EULEX of unfair dismissal after she made corruption allegations against chief international prosecutors and judges serving in Kosovo. Bamieh has now successfully fought the mission’s request for an ‘anonymisation order’ which would keep not only the proceedings but also the information about the main respondent, EULEX, confidential.
“My lawyers advised that EULEX’s attempts to do this were hopeless,” said Bamieh after the verdict. A judge ruled in her favor in April this year, awarding Bamieh £10,500 plus tax (amounting to £12,600 , or 15,890 euros, according to Bamieh) for costs she incurred.
Bamieh believes the ruling shows that EULEX has not been lying to the tribunal.
“It is very unusual to recover costs at the tribunal and it is only where a party has behaved particularly badly maliciously vexatious that costs are awarded,” says Bamieh.
She has not yet recovered the money from EULEX and told BIRN she plans to initiate separate proceedings.
In his decision to dismiss the EULEX application, Judge Hodgson explained that anonymity order can be given only in case ‘necessity’ is shown.
“Where there is no necessity there is no ground for the order,” says the judge’s decision, which was made available to BIRN. “They [EULEX] come nowhere near to showing any necessity. I have been given virtually no detail at all, and it appears that much of the information which the EULEX respondents seek to conceal is already in the public domain.”
The documents involved in Bamieh’s claim against EULEX for unfair dismissal will now be part of the public domain until a final verdict. Bamieh sees the application for a gag order as a continuation of the mission’s tactics so far, part of “an overall whitewash to hide their wrongdoings.”
“They even threatened my lawyer with prosecution if we even mentioned the names of the persons we were suing or if we were to publish my claim,” said Bamieh, who fought for the right to discuss her case publicly from the outset.
“The whole issue secrecy needs to be properly looked at to ensure more openness and transparency from EULEX,” criticized Bamieh.
In October 2014, Kosovo daily Koha Ditore published articles maintaining that Bamieh’s reports on high-level corruption within the mission were ignored. Bamieh was subsequently stripped of her position.
According to documents BIRN has seen, Bamieh wrote a complaint to the heads of EULEX which featured wiretaps of the former Minister of Health Ilir Tolaj, on trial for bribery and tax evasion, speaking about attempts to negotiate a lesser sentence from judge Francesco Florit. Family members of other defendants also claimed Florit accepted 300,000 euros from a suspect. Florit strongly denies these accusations.
An internal investigation led by senior legal adviser Jean-Paul Jacque concluded that Bamieh’s case was not handled adequately by EULEX, and that the mission needs to improve its structure and human resources policies, but that there was no intention of a cover up. His report did not address the corruption allegations made by Bamieh.
“If there’s something [to Bamieh’s claims], it shall be prosecuted fully and entirely. If there’s nothing to prosecute, it should be made clear that it was all a scam,” former EULEX head Gabriele Meucci told Jeta ne Kosove, adding that Bamieh’s accusations had damaged the mission greatly.
Bamieh is adamant that EULEX failed to fight corruption.
“They have had little success fighting corruption and the way I was treated showed they were never serious about it anyway, they just wanted to give the impression that they were,” said Bamieh.
When asked about the recent raid EULEX conducted in an attempt to arrest a crime ring accused of appropriating socially owned land, Bamieh said it was convenient.
“Yes some high profile cases have recently been indicted, but notably just before the extension of the mission mandate,” said Bamieh. On Tuesday, EULEX’s mandate was extended by the Council of Europe until June 14, 2017. “If you ask the local people they will all tell you they are glad EULEX is still in Kosovo even with all its faults. But they deserve better. They deserve a EULEX which does it job and leads by example.”
Bamieh says that though she has already spent over 80,000 pounds (100,000 euros) on legal proceedings, she will continue to fight her former employer.
“The EULEX strategy is to delay and hide hoping to never answer the substantive allegations. They will end up answering for their wrongs even if I have to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.”