Indictment of the Prime Minister of Kosovo by the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal

Indictment of the Prime Minister of Kosovo by the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal

The International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia has indicted the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj. Such a move had been rumored and Haradinaj had said that he would resign from office if indicted. On Tuesday he did just that. Although the substance of the indictment has not yet been made public; it is understood to stem from alleged incidents in 1998-1999, when Haradinaj was a commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army. He maintains his innocence of any charges and has gone to the Hague to cooperate with the tribunal.

In the State Department’s press briefing on Tuesday, the State Department spokesperson said that

[t]he United States welcomes Mr. Haradinaj’s stated readiness to go to The Hague tomorrow. We call upon the people of Kosovo to refrain from any violence and we reiterate the importance of continuing to work on the standards for Kosovo. Adhering to the rule of law is a key element of the standards. We continue to support the tribunal. We call upon all parties in Kosovo and throughout the region to cooperate fully with the tribunal. This includes apprehending and transferring all fugitive indictees to The Hague.

The UN Special Representative had a similar statement here.

This indictment may prove to be a key test for the ICTY and Kosovo, both. The ICTY has shown that it is willing to prosecute people from both sides of the the Kosovar conflict. More than that, by indicting one of the leaders of the autonomous region of Kosovo, it is facing head-on the problem as to whether tribunals help or impede lasting political settlements by making political leaders face possible prosecutions (and thus giving them no incentive to make peace if they would go to jail anyway). So far, at least, the nightmare scenario hasn’t happened: Haradinaj resigned, urged Kosovars to remain calm, and has willingly left for the Hague (contrast this with the fugitive status of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic). As one journalist in Kosovo reported today, while he saw some people out buying flowers for International Women’s Day, he didn’t see anyone gathering stones for street protests over the indictment.

The reason for this is probably in large part due to the fact that this is a turning point not only for the ICTY, but Kosovo as well. Kosovo is looking for possible independence. The road to independence does not pass through defiance to the ICTY, Europe, and America. In order to set down a marker for the autonomy that they already have and press forward towards independence, Kosovo needs to show key players (especially the European Union and the U.S.) that it will be a good citizen in the community of states, if it achieves statehood. Complying with an ICTY indictment is a good way to signal this (it also explains, incidentally, why Serbia has been complying with the ICTY in its run-up towards talks for it accession into the E.U.).

Hopefully the incentives of being a “good citizen” will outweigh the disincentives. How these issues unfold will point to the possibilities for lasting peace in the region.

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