Ex Kosovo PM to be retried before UN war crimes court

AFP , Thursday 18 Aug 2011

Ex-Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and two of his allies will stand before UN court for war crimes' charges committed during Kosovo's 1988-99 war

Ex-Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj (Photo:AP)

Ex-Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and two of his allies are to face war crimes court judges Thursday for crimes committed during Kosovo's 1998-99 war in the tribunal's first ever partial retrial.

Haradinaj, 43, and Idriz Balaj, 39 will be retried on six war crimes charges for murder, cruel treatment and torture before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), after appeal judges found that witnesses were intimidated during their original 10-month trial.

A third accused, Lahi Brahimaj, 41, will face four counts before the Hague-based tribunal for his role in the fight between independence-seeking ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Belgrade forces of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

The three are back before the tribunal after its appeals chamber last year quashed a number of their war crimes acquittals.

Haradinaj, former prime minister and the most senior Kosovo leader to appear before the tribunal and Balaj, considered his lieutenant and commander of the notorious "Black Eagles" unit, were acquitted in April 2008 on 37 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Brahimaj was convicted of torture and sentenced to six years in jail.

But on July 21 last year, appeal judges agreed with a request by the court's prosecutors who said the court refused to give them "additional time to exhaust all reasonable steps to secure the testimony of two crucial witnesses."

Appeal judges said "particularly in the context of the serious witness intimidation that formed the context of the trial, it was clear the Trial Chamber seriously erred in failing to take measures to secure the testimony of certain witnesses," ordering a retrial, which was now expected to last several months.

Together with his two close associates Haradinaj is the most prominent figure in the separatist ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), accused of wanting to establish total military control in an area in western Kosovo during the country's 1998-99 war, by killing, torturing and beating Serbs or those suspected of collaborating with them.

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