news 29 Nov 12

Kosovars Await Haradinaj Ruling With Baited Breath

Crowds are expected to gather in the centre of Pristina to watch live as the Hague Tribunal issues its verdict in the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj.

BIRN
Belgrade
Ramush Haradinaj I Photo by Beta

Haradinaj, former Prime Minister of Kosovo, and his two co-defendants, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, are charged with committing war crimes during the Kosovo conflict of the late 1990s.

Prosecutors allege they tortured and killed ethnic Serbs, and Albanians who were deemed to have collaborated with Serbs, in a KLA-run camp at Jablanica in 1998.

The Hague court acquitted Haradinaj and Balaj of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity following a three-year trial in 2008. Brahimaj was sentenced to six years for cruel treatment and torture.

In 2010, the Appeals Chamber concluded that witnesses had been intimidated and that the prosecution had not been given the chance to question two potentially crucial witnesses and sent the case for a partial retrial.

Haradinaj's release is widely anticipated by the public in Kosovo. Posters and billboards welcoming him back home have gone up throughout Pristina and other cities.

Thousands of people have also showed their support for the former KLA commander by posting comments on Facebook

“Ramush Haradinaj is returning”, “Free Ramush Haradinaj,” or Ramush is coming,” are some common posts made on one of his accounts.

The ICTY issued its initial indictment against Haradinaj and his two co-accused on March 4, 2005.

Four days later and only hundred days into his premiership Haradinaj resigned and surrender voluntarily to the Tribunal.

After his release in April 2008, Haradinaj returned to Kosovo to head the opposition the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK.  

But his political career was halted anew on July 21, 2010, when the Appeal Chamber of the ICTY partially quashed the earlier acquittals of the trio, ordering a partial retrial.

The timing of Thursday’s judgment is sensitive. The Tribunal verdict will come just over two weeks after the ICTY acquitted Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, two former Croatian army generals, of war crimes.

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