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Haradinaj Granted Provisional Release

Previous request denied out of concern a return to Kosovo would contribute to climate of fear.
By Brendan McKenna
Hague tribunal judges this week allowed Kosovo’s former prime minister, who is being tried for war crimes, to return home to attend a funeral, under strict security conditions.

Ramush Haradinaj, a former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, commander of the Dukagjin Operational Zone, was permitted to attend the funeral of his 11-year-old nephew, who was killed in a traffic accident on October 2.

Under the terms of his release on compassionate grounds from October 3 -7, Judges said that Haradinaj will be confined to his home and watched over by a 24-hour guard.

Haradinaj is being permitted to return to Kosovo to observe the Albanian tradition of a three-day period of mourning following a death in the family.

His previous request for provisional release over the court’s summer recess was denied because of fears that it would contribute to a climate of fear, deterring witnesses from testifying against him.

At least ten witnesses have refused to testify in Haradinaj’s trial due to threats against them and their families, spokeswoman for the prosecutor Olga Kavran told IWPR this week.

“The prosecutor did not oppose the compassionate leave [request] because it is..for a specific purpose; it is very brief and under very strict conditions set by the trial chamber,” said Kavran.

The trial chamber, led by presiding judge Alphons Orie, only permitted Haradinaj’s provisional release after being assured by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, that they would provide 24-hour supervision and security for Haradinaj, including a non-Albanian guard who would be with the accused at all times.

Judge Orie also ordered that Haradinaj remain under house arrest for the duration of his trip, allowed out only to attend the funeral.

Other conditions include a ban on any contact with the media, political activity and from making any public comments, with the exception of a “short speech of purely a private and personal nature” to those attending the funeral.

The spokesman for UNMIK, Alexander Ivanko, said he didn’t anticipate any difficulties in ensuring Haradinaj complied with the tribunal’s order, as they have enforced similar conditions for previous provisional releases. “These issues have been dealt with [in the past],” he said.

Haradinaj, who during the Kosovo war of 1998-99 established himself as one of KLA’s most able commanders, stepped down as prime minister and then turned himself in to the Hague tribunal in March 2005 upon learning of his indictment.

He is now standing trial along with Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj for allegedly allowing KLA units under his command to abduct, murder, detain and torture Serb, Albanian and gypsy civilians who collaborated or were believed to have collaborated with Serbian forces in Dukagjin.

Haradinaj’s trial will continue during his short absence.

This week, a high level intelligence analyst for Serbia’s State Security Service during the Kosovo conflict, took the witness stand to testify about the service’s knowledge of KLA activities and of Haradinaj himself.

Zoran Stijovic testified that as the fourth or fifth most important person in the Analysis Department, he had access to virtually every piece of information the State Security Service had. He said the latter was very familiar with Haradinaj's activities in the KLA.

He added that virtually every Serb report on KLA activities in the Dukagjin area contained a mention of Haradinaj or a member of his family.

Because of its proximity to Albania, Haradinaj’s area of responsibility provided a corridor through which the KLA could procure weapons. As a consequence, it witnessed some of the heaviest fighting of the conflict.

Brendan McKenna is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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