Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Shefqet Kabashi witness at the Haradinaj trial. (Photo: ICTY)
A key witness who recently pleaded guilty to contempt for refusing to testify in the case against former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj has post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, his lawyer told judges during a hearing this week.
The diagnosis was made very recently in the United Nations Detention Unit, UNDU, where the witness, Shefqet Kabashi, is currently being held. This was the first time he has been assessed for the disorder, his lawyer Michael Karnavas said.
Kabashi, who has an asylum application pending in the United States, refused to answer questions when he was called during the original Haradinaj trial in 2007. He was subsequently charged with contempt but went back to the US before he could be arrested.
When he received another summons to appear in the recently commenced partial retrial, Karnavas said he came voluntarily, even though he knew he would be detained upon his arrival in The Hague.
Kabashi is a former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, and is considered a crucial witness in the case against Haradinaj, who was originally acquitted on all 37 counts against him in 2008.
The absence of Kabashi’s testimony was in part what compelled the appeals chamber to order a partial retrial on six counts in 2010.
While Kabashi did appear in the witness box last week during the retrial, he had sharp words for all the parties involved and refused to answer most of the questions put to him. (For more on this, see Witness Refuses to Testify in Haradinaj Trial.)
Karnavas noted then, as he did again this week, that his client was held as a prisoner-of-war by Serbian forces for over three years, during which he was tortured and beaten. Upon his release in 2002, he provided information to the authorities about what happened to him and others, but nothing was ever done about it.
“He became disenchanted with the whole process,” Karnavas said.
Now, Karnavas said, Kabashi was “segregated and on suicide watch” in the UNDU and “woken up every 30 minutes to make sure he’s alive”.
The PTSD was a factor in why Kabashi had trouble “thinking clearly” and finds it “extremely difficult to answer simple questions”, Karnavas said.
He added that his client could have stayed in the US and fought the summons, and a judge there probably would not have signed off on an extradition order “knowing he would be put in prison and would suffer the way he is right now”.
Karnavas said the PTSD diagnosis should be taken into consideration when it came to sentencing, and Kabashi should not have to serve any more time than he has done already since his arrival on August 18. The prosecution made no submissions as regards the length of sentence.
Judge O-Gon Kwon, who recently joined the bench after two other judges stepped down, noted that Kabashi testified in 2005 in the case against another KLA member, Fatmir Limaj, originally as a protected witness. Kabashi later requested that the protection be lifted and those transcripts are now public.
As for why his client chose to have his identity revealed, “protective measures don’t always work”, Karnavas said.
“What effectively [Kabashi] is saying is that there are no protective measures, regrettably,” Karnavas continued. “He’s a man who risked his life to give evidence and now he’s being treated like a criminal.”
At the end of the hearing, Kabashi himself gave a short statement.
“I wanted to apologise to your honours and to the tribunal for the problems I may have caused, starting from 2007,” he said. “I apologise that I haven’t been as useful as I should have been. Contrary to the strong desire to go back to my family, I accept and respect any decision taken by this court.”
The judges will deliver their decision on sentencing on September 16.
Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.
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