Former Commander in Kosovo Liberation Army Acquitted
Yesterday, November 29, former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was acquitted of charges levied against him in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a court under the authority of the United Nations, specifically commissioned to investigate and prosecute crimes during the conflicts in the Balkans during the 1990s. Haradinaj, a former commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, was charged with crimes committed against “Kosovo Serbs, Kosovo Roma/Egyptian, Kosovo Albanian or other civilians” in western Kosovo in 1998. Haradinaj was indicted for these crimes in 2005 for which he served four years. However, in 2008 there was determined to be insufficient evidence to conclusively prove Haradinaj’s involvement in the crimes committed, and he was acquitted. The recent trial was a result of actions by the ICTY Appeals Chamber who effectively maneuvered for a retrial of Haradinaj and two of his associates, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, on the basis that the Trial Chamber had failed to counter witness intimidation preventing the prosecution from securing testimony from two witnesses. All three men were acquitted yesterday.
The decision has met with condemnation amongst Serbians, who see this verdict as another setback in the quest for justice and further evidence of the bias of the court. This is especially poignant in wake of the acquittal of two former Croatian generals during the wars who were previously convicted of crimes against humanity. President Tomislav Nikolic of Serbia specifically attacked the ruling, stating that the ICTY had evidently been “formed to try the Serbian people.” Criticism has come from beyond Serbia as well, especially in the form of accusations that the acquittals were possible because both Croatia and Kosovo were supported by the West (in the form of NATO) during the war.
Haradinaj is expected to try to reestablish his political career in light of this acquittal. He served as Prime Minister in Kosovo for 100 days before the initial accusations. He is the highest-ranking Kosovo Albanian to be tried by the ICTY.