Haradinaj, trial in troubled waters

19 March 2007 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

When he first appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on March 9, 2005, Ramush Haradinaj was Prime Minister of Kosovo. A former nightclub bouncer, he became leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the conflict with Serbia in 1998. His subordinate Idriz Balaj was commander of the KLA "Black Eagles", a "rapid intervention special unit". And his uncle, Lahi Brahimaj, was in charge of the KLA's finances. But for the prosecution, the trial of these three men, which started in The Hague on March 5, 2007, is not about a resistance movement breaching the laws of war, but about the cruel abuse of power.

The three defendants are being tried for the murder, torture, rape, unlawful detainment, abduction and mistreatment of Serb civilians, as well as Roma and Albanian Kosovars who were considered Serb collaborators. The prosecutor has focused on the Dukagjin zone, west of the capital Pristina, where she alleges that the ruling Haradinaj clan deported and killed all non-Kosovar Albanians, as well as those not loyal to them.

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