ICTY Acquits Former Kosovo Prime Minister of War Crimes
The ICTY has acquitted Ramush Haradinaj, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and a former Kosovo prime minister, of committing war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict with Serbia. (Official press release is here). In giving its judgment, the ICTY Chamber went out of its way to complain about how many witnesses for the prosecution were intimidated from testifying.
During the trial the Chamber received evidence from almost 100 witnesses. Nevertheless, the Chamber encountered significant difficulties in securing the testimony of a large number of these witnesses. Many cited fear as a prominent reason for not wishing to appear before the Chamber to give evidence. In this regard, the Chamber gained a strong impression that the trial was being held in an atmosphere where witnesses felt unsafe, due to a number of factors set out in the Judgement. The parties furthermore agreed that an unstable security situation existed in Kosovo that was particularly unfavourable to witnesses. As a reflection of the difficulties encountered in obtaining testimony, 34 witnesses were granted certain protective measures.
Since the lack of sufficient evidence was the basis for some of their acquittals, this does seem to call into question the reliability of the verdict. Then again, there is no such thing as a perfect verdict, nor even perfect conditions.
One final note: Are we finally heading into the ICTY homestretch? Maybe.
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.