News 26 Jan 17

Arrested Kosovo Ex-PM Accuses Serbia of ‘Abusing Law’

Former premier and ex-guerrilla commander Ramush Haradinaj, who was arrested in France over Serbian war crimes allegations, accused Belgrade of abusing the law by seeking his extradition.

Ramush Haradinaj with French police. Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/BETA.

Ramush Haradinaj said in an interview published on Thursday that his arrest on war crimes charges earlier this month was “unjust” and slammed Serbia’s attempt to secure his extradition to face trial in Belgrade.

“It is abuse of the law, which is happening to a person who has carried out his obligations to local and international law,” Haradinaj told the French news agency AFP.

He was referring to the fact that he has twice been acquitted by the Hague-based war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia of committing war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

However Serbian officials insist that they have evidence that Haradinaj was involved in other war crimes for which he has not yet been prosecuted.

They say he is suspected of the murders of civilians, including the killing of a two-week-old baby, torture, and the rape of a minor.

They have also threatened to retaliate if Paris does not send him to Belgrade.

A court in the French town of Colmar released Haradinaj on bail on January 12, but ordered him to remain in France under judicial supervision while the authorities consider whether to send him to Serbia to face trial.

His arrest at a French airport after he flew in from Kosovo has heightened tensions between Belgrade and Pristina.

It has also sparked protests by Albanians both inside and outside Kosovo, calling for his release and condemning the arrest as a political act.

The French foreign ministry has insisted the arrest was not political and said that Paris “maintains close and friendly relations” with Kosovo despite the row over Haradinaj’s detention.

In the interview with AFP, Haradinaj, who now leads the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party, accused political leaders in Pristina of not standing up to Belgrade.

“It's a pity Pristina keeps such an inferior and servile official position,” he told AFP.

He also repeated his criticism of the ongoing EU-mediated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue in Brussels, which is aimed at normalising relations.

“Only one issue is open for discussion with Serbia: the recognition of Kosovo. If Serbia is ready to accept it, let’s sit down [and talk]. If not, let’s wait,” he said.

The presidents and prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia met in Brussels on Wednesday in a bid to calm the tensions provoked by Haradinaj’s arrest and Belgrade’s attempt to send a passenger train decorated with slogans saying ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ into its former province earlier this month.

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