UN war crimes tribunal orders partial re-trial for ex-leader of Kosovo

21 July 2010

A former prime minister of Kosovo faces a re-trial on war crimes charges after the United Nations tribunal set up to deal with the worst offences committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s today partially quashed his earlier acquittal.

Ramush Haradinaj, who was also a well-known commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during its conflict with Serb forces in 1998-99, had been acquitted in 2008 of murder, rape, torture, abduction, cruel treatment, imprisonment and the forced deportation of ethnic Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians.

But appeals judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today ruled that a re-trial was necessary because the court’s trial chamber had erred in not doing more to ensure the testimony of certain witnesses, given “the serious witness intimidation that formed the context of the trial.”

The original trial had heard how many witnesses felt unsafe and subsequently two men were tried on contempt of court charges for attempting to intimidate witnesses.

Mr. Haradinaj, 42, and his two co-accused, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, were ordered to be placed in custody at the UN Detention Unit in The Hague – where the ICTY is based – pending their re-trial at a date to be fixed.

The three men are accused by prosecutors of being part of a joint criminal enterprise between March and September 1998 that aimed to consolidate the KLA’s control over the Dukagjin area of north-western Kosovo by unlawfully removing, mistreating and killing ethnic Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians, as well as Kosovar Albanians perceived to have been collaborating with Serbian forces.

In the 2008 decision by the trial chamber, both Mr. Haradinaj and Mr. Balaj, 38, were acquitted of all charges. But Mr. Brahimaj, 40, was convicted of the cruel treatment and torture of two people at the KLA headquarters in Jablanica/Jabllanicë and sentenced to six years in jail.

 

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UN tribunal reverses contempt of court conviction of former Kosovo minister

The United Nations war crimes tribunal set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s today overturned the conviction of Kosovo’s ex-minister of culture, youth and sports for contempt of court for trying to intimidate a trial witness, but upheld the conviction on the same charge of one of his political advisers.