News 29 Nov 12

Serbia: Haradinaj Acquittal Will Destabilize Region

Belgrade officials say if ICTY acquits ex-KLA leader of war crimes it will undermine dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Photo by Beta

As Serbia impatiently awaits the ICTY verdict against former KLA leader Ramush Haradinaj, its leaders claim an acquittal would endanger still fragile Kosovo-Serbia relations.

Speaking about his expectations about Thursday’s ICTY appeal court ruling on Haradinaj, a former Prime Minister of Kosovo, Serbia’s Chief War Crimes Prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic says he feels positive but cautious about the chances of a conviction.

“I am aware that the evidence against him is poor and we helped with what information we have, but the Hague Tribunal was sloppy and unprofessional, “ Vukcevic told the Serbian daily Informer referring to the witness protection system of the ICTY.

He added that 19 potential witnesses in the case had been killed.

An advisor to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, Oliver Antic, told the media on Wednesday that an acquittal would endanger the EU-led Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.  

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic meanwhile said an acquittal would “confirm the claims of those who say that the Hague Tribunal is not a court and its only purpose is to meet a present political agenda”.

Rasim Ljajic, Head of Serbian National Council of the ICTY, earlier said that “nothing good” could be expected with regard to the Haradinaj case.

On the other side, many Kosovars fear that pressure coming from Serbia may sway the final verdict.

The ICTY acquitted Haradinaj and another defendant, Idriz Balaj in 2008 of war crimes following a three-year trial. A third defendant, Lah Brahimaj, was sentenced to six years for cruel treatment and torture.

A partial retrial of the trio started on July 2010 after the prosecution appealed, saying the court had not been given time to hear the evidence of two key witnesses.

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Background

Timeline: Cases for War Crimes in Pec Villages

Timeline of events in the case against 13 former Serb fighters charged with committing war crimes in the villages of Cuska, Zahac, Ljubenic and Pavlan in Kosovo in 1999.

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