‘Take them to Drenica’ is how the ex KLA soldiers were told by their superiors to execute the prisoners at the Jabllanica detention camp, and their commander Ramush Haradinaj did nothing to stop them, says the ICTY prosecutor.
According to the Hague Tribunal, ICTY, prosecutor Paul Rogers the euphemism was used by all three suspects, Ramush Haradinaj, Lahi Brahimaj and Idriz Balaj, all former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, fighters who are on trial for war crimes committed during the Kosovo war in late 1990s.
“The euphemism “take them to Drenica”, meaning “kill them” was known to soldiers in Jabllanica. The prisoners there were persons suspected of being collaborators or Serbian spies...Witness Naser Lika, Ivan Zaris, Agron Berisha, Burim Bejtja and many others named in the indictment were beaten and tortured and some of them were killed. Ramush Haradinaj supported these crimes,” the prosecution argued.
In his closing arguments at the retrial of the group at the Hague Rogers said that Haradinaj had the authority to stop the torture.
“But instead, Hardinaj supported the elimination of the military opposition and incited more violence and crimes in Jabllanica. The authority he had but did not use to stop the murders makes him responsible,” the prosecutor said.
Haradinaj, Brahimaj and Balaj were returned to the ICTY for a partial retrial after the prosecution convinced an appeals judge that it had not been given sufficient time to hear the evidence from two key witnesses.
The prosecution argued that Hardinaj and Brahimaj had been found not guilty because witnesses were “threatened and blackmailed” and could not deliver objective testimonies.
In 2008, Haradinaj and Balaj were acquitted of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity following a three-year trial. Brahimaj was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for cruel treatment and torture.
The trio in the case, known as Haradinaj et al, were previously indicted on charges related to the murder, kidnap, torture and rape of Serbs, Roma and Albanians between March and September 1998.
During the conflict in Kosovo, Haradinaj was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, Balaj was the commander of the Black Eagles Unit within the KLA, and Brahimaj was a KLA member stationed in the force’s Jabllanice headquarters in the western Gjakove municipality.
Haradinaj, 43, was indicted in 2004 while serving as Kosovo’s Prime Minister and voluntarily surrendered to the Tribunal.
The closing arguments by the prosecution and the defence will continue on June 26.