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Hague Prosecutors Appeal Haradinaj Judgement

They are calling for a retrial in case of Kosovo’s former Prime Minister, saying proceedings were unfair.
By Simon Jennings
The prosecution has filed an appeal against the acquittal of the ex-prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, calling for a re-trial.



On April 3, Haradinaj and his co-accused, Idriz Balaj, were found not guilty of war crimes committed against Serbs in Kosovo during 1998.



A third accused, Lahi Brahimaj, was sentenced to six years in jail for cruel treatment and torture.



The three men were all members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA and were charged with murder, torture, rape and cruel treatment of Serb civilians and others who collaborated with Serb forces.



The prosecution submitted an appeal on July 16, against the acquittals of the three accused in relation to crimes committed at the KLA headquarters and prison in Jablanica. It has also appealed the acquittal of Balaj on charges of murder and cruel treatment, and is seeking to have this overturned by the appeals chamber.



In its appeal brief, the prosecution underlined what it felt to be the unfair nature of the trial. It claims that two crucial witnesses did not come to The Hague to testify against the accused because they felt unsafe to do so, resulting in an unfair trial and the two acquittals.



In handing down its judgement, the trial chamber itself said that witnesses were afraid to come and testify as the trial was conducted “in an atmosphere where witnesses felt unsafe”.



The prosecution contends that the trial chamber should have ordered an adjournment of the trial in order for it to secure the testimony of the witnesses. Yet, they say, it “overreacted to time pressure” and “instead of focusing on a fair trial, it focused on conducting an expeditious one”.

“Reasonable steps were not taken to ensure the testimony of crucial witnesses,” the prosecution wrote in its appeals brief. “Without this testimony, acquittals resulted.”



One of the witnesses who did not testify, Shefqet Kabashi, was a former member of the KLA who, the prosecution contends, saw the three accused committing the alleged crimes. The prosecution says that Kabashi and another witness, who cannot be named, were intimidated because they had “concrete and direct information as to the culpability of the three accused”.



According to the prosecution, the only remedy for this injustice is a re-trial before the trial chamber on the relevant counts of murder, torture and cruel treatment of detainees in KLA custody that would allow such evidence to be heard.



Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter.