Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kosovo / International Tribunals

UN Court Acquits Former Kosovo Prime Minister
Associated Press dispatch in The New York Times, November 29, 2012
"A UN war crimes tribunal on Thursday acquitted Kosovo's former prime minister for the second time of murdering and torturing Serbs and their supporters in Kosovo's war for independence, setting the stage for his return to political life in the deeply divided nation. The verdict was issued in the U.N. court's first ever retrial, which was ordered after appeals judges branded the 2008 acquittals of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and KLA fighters Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj a 'miscarriage of justice' because of widespread intimidation of prosecution witnesses. Brahimaj was convicted of torture at the first trial and that was not retried, but he has served his sentence and will be released with the others. The acquittals herald a political renaissance for Haradinaj, seen by the West before his 2005 indictment as a unifying force in Kosovo, but could complicate talks between Pristina and Belgrade on Kosovo's future. 'With the consent of the people, he will soon be resuming his rightful position as the political leader of the country,' his lawyer Ben Emmerson told reporters at the court. Emmerson said Haradinaj told him he wants to lead a government representing all ethnic groups in Kosovo. 'It is time, he says, for reconciliation.' Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said the ruling vindicated the ethnic-Albanian guerrilla force that fought Serbia in 1998-99. 'Our struggle for independence was just and sacred,' Thaci said in a statement.
Applause rang around the courtroom's public gallery when Presiding Judge Bakone Moloto delivered the vedicts. In Kosovo's capital, Pristina, supporters set off fireworks and honked car horns. Others danced and clapped as they watched the verdicts on a giant screen. The three men were to be released and returned to Kosovo later Thursday. 'Finally, after eight long years and two lengthy trials, this tribunal has done justice to Ramush Haradinaj, to his co-accused and to the people of Kosovo,' Emmerson said. Moloto said Serbs and their suspected supporters were beaten at a KLA compound in Kosovo and at least one of them died of his injuries. However, he said that there was no evidence Haradinaj was involved in the attacks. In fact, Moloto said, Haradinaj reprimanded one KLA fighter for abusing a Kosovo Albanian man, telling the fighter: 'No such thing should happen anymore because this is damaging our cause.' [...]"

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