News 12 Sep 17

Serbia Still Seeking Arrest of Kosovo PM Haradinaj

Although Ramush Haradinaj has become Kosovo’s prime minister, the warrant that Serbia issued for his arrest on war crimes charges will remain in force, which may cause him travel problems.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade

New Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Photo: Beta/Visar Kryeziu.

Serbia has insisted that the arrest warrant that it issued for Ramush Haradinaj in 2004 will remain in force now he is Kosovo’s new prime minister, which could cause difficulties while travelling internationally in his new role, experts believe.

“Everything depends on whether the country has recognised Kosovo [as independent] or not,” Ivan Jovanovic, a Serbian expert in international law, told BIRN.

“In principle, heads of state and government and foreign ministers enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution by other states during their mandate,” Jovanovic said.

For countries which have not recognised Kosovo, Haradinaj is not the prime minister of a sovereign state, so they will not see him as immune.

But Jovanovic said that for political reasons, he believes EU states which have not recognised Kosovo would not arrest him.

“I am quite sure that these five EU countries, which did not recognise Kosovo, will not do this, so as not to obstruct the functioning of Kosovo and thus come into conflict with other states,” he said.

The head of Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, told state-owned newspaper Vecernje novosti on Monday that Haradinaj remains a “person on the wanted list”.

Haradinaj was elected prime minister of Kosovo on Saturday by a narrow majority, with 61 of the 120 votes in parliament.

The Belgrade-backed Kosovo Serb party Srpska Lista supported him and in return will get control over three ministries in his government.

“I think that for political reasons in Serbia, [the warrant] will remain in force against him and that Serbia will treat him as a suspected war criminal, but on the other hand Serbia will acknowledge the reality that he is the elected prime minister of Kosovo and the head of the government in which Srpska Lista, with a ‘green light’ from Belgrade, is also participating,” Jovanovic said.

The EU, which Serbia is seeking to join, would also strongly disapprove of Haradinaj’s arrest, he added.

The Serbian authorities accuse Haradinaj of having murdered, raped and tortured Serb civilians during the Kosovo war.

Opposing extradition in court in France after his arrest there in January this year, Haradinaj denied Serbia’s accusations and called them “political”.

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