Haradinaj, a forced marriage between politics and justice

17 March 2008 by Victor Peskin

The long-running diplomatic battle over Kosovo's future has had a contentious parallel in a courtroom battle over Kosovo's bloody past at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). A judgment in the trial of the former Prime Minister of Kosovo and former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Ramush Haradinaj is expected soon in The Hague. It may bring new lessons on the relationship between international tribunals and international organizations that would appear to be their natural allies.

Haradinaj and his two Kosovar Albanian co-indictees, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, went on trial last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the war with Serbia a decade ago. The Tribunal's decision to prosecute Haradinaj extends a foundational principle of contemporary international justice: that neither war crimes suspects identified with the winning side of an armed conflict nor suspects identified with a victim group merit immunity from prosecution. Yet, implementing this prosecutorial principle is neither inevitable nor easy for today's international tribunals. Claiming victim status, the Croatian government, for example, handed over its generals to the ICTY only under intense pressure from the European Union. In Rwanda, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front government has so far succeeded in pressuring the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) not to prosecute any of its own members, contrary to the mandate of the ICTR.

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