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The Hague, 3 April 2008
Haradinaj And Balaj Acquitted Of All Charges,
Brahimaj Guilty Of Cruel Treatment And Torture In Jablanica Compound
The Tribunal's Trial Chamber I today acquitted Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj of all charges which alleged they were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo between March and September 1998. The third accused, Lahi Brahimaj was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for cruel treatment and torture of two persons at the Jablanica/Jabllanicë headquarters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj faced charges of participation in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was to consolidate the KLA’s total control over Dukagjin area in north-western Kosovo by the unlawful removal, mistreatment and murder of Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians, as well as Kosovar Albanian citizens who were perceived to have been collaborating with Serbian forces.
During the period in question, Haradinaj was a commander of the KLA in Dukagjin area, Balaj was the commander of the Black Eagles Unit within the KLA and Brahimaj a KLA member stationed in the force’s Jablanica/Jabllanicë headquarters in Ðakovica/Gjakovë municipality.
The Chamber acquitted all three accused of all counts alleging crimes against humanity. Evidence presented by the prosecution “did not always allow the Chamber to conclude whether a crime was committed or whether the KLA was involved as alleged”.
“The evidence on some of the other counts indicates that the victims may have been targeted primarily for reasons pertaining to them individually rather than as members of the targeted civilian population,” the judges found. They also ruled that the ill-treatment, forcible transfer and killing of Serb and Roma civilians as well as Kosovar Albanian civilians was “not on a scale of frequency that would allow for a conclusion that there was an attack against a civilian population”.
The three were charged with 19 counts of the violations of laws or customs of war including murder, torture, rape and cruel treatment. The Chamber found that a large number of crimes alleged in the indictment were committed by KLA soldiers, particularly those that took place in Jablanica/Jabllanicë compound.
The Trial Chamber found that, based on evidence presented, it was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there was a joint criminal enterprise with the objective of targeting the civilians, therefore the three accused could not have participated in it.
Regarding the charges the three faced alleging the murder of 30 victims in the Radonjić/Radoniq canal area, the Chamber found “that only seven of these murders could be proven beyond reasonable doubt and attributed to the KLA. The evidence presented with regard to the perpetrators and circumstances of the remaining alleged murders was vague, inconclusive or nonexistent.”
The Prosecution also charged the three with individual criminal responsibility for the planning, instigating, ordering, aiding and abetting many of the crimes in the indictment. The Trial Chamber found sufficient evidence for only two of those counts pertaining to only one of the accused – Lahi Brahimaj.
Brahimaj was found guilty of personally participating in the cruel treatment and torture of Witness 6 who was, from mid-June 1998 detained in Jablanica/Jabllanicë compound. He was also found guilty of cruel treatment and torture for the role he played in the interrogations of Witness 3 who was detained at the Jablanica/Jabllanicë headquarters in July 1998. Following the interrogation Brahimaj told two women dressed in black uniforms to practice on the victim, whereupon the persons in question started beating Witness 3. Both victims were detained and submitted to mistreatment and discrimination on the basis of their perceived collaboration with or ties to the Serbs.
Judge Alphonsus Orie highlighted the significant difficulties encountered by the Chamber in securing testimony of a large number of witnesses. The Chamber received evidence from almost 100 witnesses during the trial of which 34 were granted protective measures and 18 issued with subpoenas.
“The Chamber gained a strong impression that the trial was being held in an atmosphere where witnesses felt unsafe,” Judge Orie said.
The Trial Chamber ordered the immediate release of Haradinaj and Balaj from the Detention Unit. Brahimaj will return to the Tribunal’s detention unit where he will await the enforcement of his sentence of six years’ imprisonment. Credit was given for the time Brahimaj spent in custody since March 2005.
The trial commenced on 5 March 2007 with the Prosecution’s case ending in November 2007. All three defence teams chose not to call any evidence. The closing arguments were heard between 21 and 23 January 2008.
Since its first hearing in November 1994, the Tribunal indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. Proceedings against 111 have been concluded. No further indictments will be issued.
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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