Haradinaj, the end of a trial of exceptions

04 February 2008 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

With Kosovo on the brink of declaring its independence from Serbia, the case against its resistance hero former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj came to an end on January 23 before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Everything about the Haradinaj trial was exceptional, including the announcement by the defense last December that they would not present a case. For the lawyers of Haradinaj and his co-accused Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, there was simply nothing more to say. In their view, their crossexamination of prosecution witnesses had done enough damage to either cast doubt on their credibility or dismantle the facts they had testified about.

This was the second trial before the ICTY involving former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the resistance army against the Serb dominance in Kosovo in 1998-1999. According to the prosecution, Haradinaj, born in 1968, was the overall commander and the most powerful individual in the Dukagjini Zone. Balaj, 26 at the time, commanded a special unit, the Black Eagles, while Brahimaj, 28 at the time, was a senior KLA figure in the Dukagjini Zone. This close relative to Haradinaj was more specifically in charge of the Jabllanicë district in the town of Dakovica, in particular the detention centre where prisoners were allegedly tortured and murdered.

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