Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Haradinaj Denied Provisional Release

Judges rule that freeing former Kosovo prime minister would create atmosphere “unfavourable” to witnesses.
By Rachel Irwin

Ex-Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj has been denied provisional release pending his partial retrial, judges ruled on September 10.

While the judges found that Haradinaj “does not pose a personal risk to the safety” of victims and witnesses, they ruled that a provisional release – and ensuing media coverage – “would have a cumulative effect on the atmosphere that would be unfavourable to witnesses and would further undermine the fulfilment of the trial chamber’s task of establishing the truth”.

Haradinaj, former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was initially acquitted in 2008 of all 37 counts against him, which included the murder, torture and rape of Serb civilians as well as of suspected Albanian and Roma collaborators during the late Nineties conflict in Kosovo.

One of his co-accused, Idriz Balaj, was also acquitted at that time, while a third co-accused, Lahi Brahimaj, was found guilty of cruel treatment and torture and sentenced to six years in prison.

Prosecutors appealed against the acquittals, claiming that the trial had been “infected” by witness intimidation. As a result of this, they said, they were unable to secure the testimony of two key witnesses, one of whom still has a contempt case pending against him.

In late July, appeals judges ruled that all three accused should face a partial retrial on six counts of murder, cruel treatment and torture.

The appeals judgement found that the trial judges “failed to appreciate the gravity of the threat of witness intimidation posed to the trial’s integrity” and placed too much emphasis “on ensuring that the prosecution took no more than its pre-allotted time to present its case…irrespective of the possibility of securing potentially important testimony”.

Lawyers for Haradinaj requested his provisional release immediately thereafter, citing his “unblemished record of complete cooperation” and the fact that he resigned as prime minister of Kosovo and surrendered to the Hague tribunal in 2005 upon learning that he was indicted. They emphasised that there was “no evidence” that he would present a “concrete risk of harm” to any victims or witnesses, or that he had previously “influenced or threatened” witnesses.

Haradinaj’s lawyers also requested that judges take into account the fact that “his two children are very young and his wife is pregnant”.

Prosecutors objected to any provisional release and vowed to appeal against such a decision, should it be granted.

The first status conference for the partial retrial will be held on September 23.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

More IWPR's Global Voices