Kosovo: War crimes court orders retrial of former PM Haradinaj

The Hague, 21 July (AKI) – The United Nations war crimes tribunal appeals panel on Wednesday ordered a partial retrial of former Kosovo prime minister Ramus Haradinaj and two of his aides for crimes against Serb, Roma and non-loyal Albanian civilians during Kosovo war for independence in 1998/99.

Haradinaj, 42, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) that started a rebellion against Serbian rule in 1998, was acquitted by the court in April 2008 on all 37 counts for lack of evidence.

Another KLA commander, Idriz Balaj, was also acquitted, while Lah Brahimaj was sentenced to six years in jail. The appeals panel, chaired by the war crimes court president Patrick Robinson, however, ordered a retrial of all three indictees on six counts of the indictment, referring to murder, cruel and inhuman treatment and violation of laws of war.

Explaining Wednesday’s verdict, Robinson said the trial chamber hadn’t paid due attention to the intimidation of potential witnesses in Haradinaj’s trial, which had led to “failure of justice”.

At least six potential witnesses against Haradinaj had been killed, or died mysterious deaths before and during the trial.

Haradinaj was briefly prime minister of Kosovo, which was put under UN control in 1999 after NATO bombing pushed Serbian forces out of the province. He resigned in 2005 and surrendered to the court after his indictment was unveiled.

“I killed Serbian policemen, Serb civilians and disobedient Albanians,” Haradinaj admitted in memoir “The Stories About War and Freedom.”

The court ordered detention of all three indictees pending a retrial. Haradinaj had earlier said he would not attend today’s court session, but according to sources, he was arrested in Kosovo on 19 July and brought to the Hague.

Kosovo majority ethnic Albanians declared independence in 2008, but Serbia is fighting a diplomatic battle to retain the control over the province. On Serbia’s request, the International Court of Justice will render its opinion on the legality of Kosovo independence on Thursday.