UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS/SPUTNIK) — Ramush Haradinaj again renounced his post of Prime Minister of Kosovo after another umpteenth summons to international war crimes court during the Yugoslav conflict. Back on a profile not so atypical in this state often described as mafia and under protection of the United States.
“The honor of the role of Prime Minister and the State must be preserved and I will never humiliate him. I’m going to The Hague as Ramush Haradinaj.”
In front of the press, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, announced on July 19 to give up his post for his appearance as a suspect for war crimes before the new European Special Court. Court ” charged with investigating the alleged crimes committed by the Albanian guerrillas in Kosovo against Serbs, Roma and Albanian opponents in the KLA “, AFP tells us. Information that has resulted in only a handful of news and articles in the French media.
It must be said that this is not the first time that he has left his costume as the head of the Kosovo government to be tried in The Hague. Already in 2005, this former bouncer, but above all commander of the UÇK (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës, or ” Kosovo Liberation Army “, the Albanian guerrillas in Kosovo) had resigned his post when the International Criminal Tribunal for ex Yugoslavia (ICTY) had served on him the indictment against him.
The massacre of Lake Radonjić
In the latter, as of March 2005, there are no less than 37 charges (17 for crimes against humanity and 20 for violation of the laws or customs of war) such as persecution, unlawful detention, treatment cruelty, murder, rape and ” other inhumane acts ” against Ramush, aka “Rambo” for his followers.
Albanian bank worker crushed by blows of blunt objects, Serbian farmer with bullets to his head and legs, a 50-year-old Roma called “Egyptian” (an Albanian-speaking, formerly nomadic Muslim ethnic group) with a shattered skull and presenting a ballistic wound, a young couple of Catholic Albanians whose charred bodies were found next to their vehicle riddled with bullets … about fifteen cases, gashed by the indictment of the prosecutor Carla del Ponte. This Swiss magistrate who became famous for her fight against the Italian mafia was appointed prosecutor of the ICTY, also has in her satchel 22 other victims – including two children – all showing “evidence of a violent death”, but no could have been identified.
Victims whose remains were found in September 1998 by the Serbian police within two kilometers of the village of Glođane, mainly on the shores of Lake Radonjić, shortly after the takeover of the KLA by the Yugoslav Federal Army, from its surroundings. Glođane, home village of Ramush Haradinaj, then local commander of the KLA, and whose center of operations he had been.
A house at the entrance to Glođane, well known by Serbian authorities. On March 24, 1998, according to one witness , while two police officers were talking to the Haradinaj’s father, Ramush reportedly rushed out of the house and shot Rznić police station commander Milorad Otović. Accused by the Haradinaj family of being a ” Serbian collaborator “, the witness left the village in the weeks following this first major clash between the KLA and the Serbian police in the region.
“In addition to those mentioned in this indictment, at least 25 Serb policemen were targeted and more than 60 civilians, Serbian and Albanian, were abducted and many of them were subsequently killed” , evokes on his side Carla Del Ponte in his indictment, which incidentally documents this incident.
Serbian police surrounded the property of the Haradinaj in response to attacks by KLA men against a Serbian and Montenegrin refugee camp in Babylon. In addition, Glođane, with its proximity to the Albanian border, facilitating the transfer of weapons to secessionists, had become a major recruitment center for the KLA.
If Ramush Haradinaj was wounded, his men pushed back the policemen and began to force their control by neighboring villages, especially towards the Serb-Albanian border. A control that Ramush wanted exclusive, not hesitating to hit and humiliate other Albanian insurgents. The statement of the facts thus mentions the fate of 4 July 1998 to four members of the FARK (Forcat e Armatosura të Republikës sè Kosovës or ” Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo”) by Ramush and men from his headquarters in Glođane.” They did not tolerate the presence of any other Albanian faction fighting the Serbs,” insists the prosecutor.
A “violent rivalry” between groups of insurgents recently recounted by the OFPRA (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons), as well as the rivalries between “former leaders of the guerilla reconverted in politics” after the conflict.
In a document dated 6 October 2015, Crime in Western Kosovo , the Division of Information, Documentation and Research (DIDR) of this administration under the Ministry of the Interior focuses on means that would have allowed the KLA to arm itself and finance itself with ” transnational criminal groups “, including a member of the Albanian mafia who allegedly ” maintained contacts ” with a member of the al-Qaeda network.
“Ramush Haradinaj […] led a family-based criminal clan in the Deçan region; this group of about 100 people has reportedly been involved in various arms and drug trafficking activities as well as cigarettes and other non-customs goods, “writes OFPRA, highlighting a report by the German intelligence services. (BND).
An area under the exclusive control of Ramush Haradinaj and his subordinates, where his men – including the famous Black Eagles, this ” special rapid intervention unit ” commanded since Rznić by Idriz Balaj, himself under the command of Ramush- ” harassing, striking, or otherwise drove Serbian and Roma civilians from villages then predominantly populated by Albanians and ” killing those civilians who remained behind or refused to abandon their homes “. The fate of Albanians ” perceived as collaborators ” was no more enviable.
Political rise: between vendetta and American support
The indictment does not stick to an obituary. The cases of some victims, still alive at the opening of the trial, are included. Among them, the Jollaj, a Roma family living in the village of Glođane and harassed for months by the Haradinaj brothers (Ramush, Daut, Frashër and Shkëlzen, all in the UÇK). Ramush and his men eventually coerced the family, after ransacking their home and taking over that of grandfather Jollaj, who was also beaten for his sentence. In their new village, the Jollaj family was stripped of their homes by other KLA soldiers.
There are also two brothers and their cousin, three Serbs kidnapped and tortured by the KLA men to return ” without permission ” to their home to recover personal belongings. Ramush Haradinaj allegedly took part in the interrogation of one of the two brothers. Unlike his two companions in misfortune, who managed with 6 and 7 days of hospitalization, he remained 28 days nailed to his hospital bed.
Other testimonies relate the kidnapping of two Albanians, in a bus, by Haradinaj himself and one of his men, both in ” black uniform “. The bodies of the two men were found by the Serbian police after the temporary resumption of the village, they had injuries resulting from “blunt trauma”.
But testimonies about the warm blood of ” Rambo ” do not blossom only in the archives of international tribunals. Since the year 2000, journalists have reported on violent incidents involving the future Kosovo Prime Minister.
A little more than a year after the cessation of NATO bombing and the withdrawal of Serbian forces from the province of Kosovo, The Guardian became interested in accusations by the UN against US officials in place In the region. In several UN police reports, officials at Camp Bondsteel – a major US base established after the Kosovan war – were accused of interfering in the investigation of ” a senior Albanian political official from Kosovo involved in terrorist attacks. ” murders, drug trafficking and war crimes .
Originally, a shootout took place in Streoc, a village about 10 kilometers west of Glođane, between Ramush and the Musaj family. The latter, whose family was at the helm of the FARK – a rival group of the UÇK – had come to claim from the Patriarch Hamadinaj the bones of one of their brothers, as is the custom of the Albanians. A brother whom they accused Ramush of having ordered the murder, shortly after the arrival of the NATO troops in the area.
Seriously injured, Ramush Haradinaj was ferried to Bond-Steel before being sent to a US military hospital in Germany. According to the British daily, even though the village of Streoc was not in the US control zone, the US authorities would have done everything to “erase the forensic evidence of the shooting scene” in which the man from the KLA was involved, “including the bullets recovered from the walls”.
An event that was far from being the first on the list of Haradinaj. Indeed, as our British confreres remind us, a few months earlier, the future Kosovar Prime Minister had already been wounded in a fight with Russian soldiers at a checkpoint of the KFOR forces.
Just as the Guardian article was published in September 2000, the British daily reported that Ramush Haradinaj was traveling to the United States, where he was fundraising at the invitation of US Senator Benjamin Gilman. We were then a month before the municipal elections in Kosovo.
Annoying testimony of a British soldier
Let us note that the image of the ex-warlord-ex-comrade-in-arms of the current President of Kosovo (Hashim Thaçi, meanwhile implicated in organ trafficking by a report of the Council of Europe) – is at that time quite different from Western political leaders and their troops. If it is described by British officials as a ” crucial ” asset for its role in the KLA’s transition from ” a guerrilla army to a civilian-based national guard ,” a soldier of his majesty served in the United States. Kosovo described him as a ” psychopath ” who terrified and beat his own men to maintain a ” semblance of discipline .”
“Someone would give him information and he would disappear for two hours. The end result would be several bodies in a ditch, “added the British veteran, quoted by The Guardian.
As the newspaper reports, the soldier says that he was also present when Hamadinaj went to “treat” an Albanian family that had let the Serbian police come in. Seven masked men burst into the house, beat two men and took a third to the canal, which was never seen again. An event documented by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).
In April 2008, due to lack of evidence and testimony, Ramush Haradinaj was acquitted.
Intimidation of UN witnesses and judges
During the acquittal, the judges will want to “highlight the great difficulties faced by the Chamber to obtain the testimony of many victims, “as reported in the press release of the court. The Chamber “had the clear impression that the trial was taking place in such a climate that the witnesses felt in danger”.
Only one of the two other defendants who appeared with Ramush Haradinaj, the former deputy commander of the KLA group of operations, Lahi Brahimaj, was sentenced to 6 years … before being acquitted in the second instance.
This first trial did not satisfy either the defense or the prosecution, the latter insisting particularly on the ” serious intimidation of witnesses ” that marked the trial, accusing the Trial Chamber of having committed ” a serious error ” by not taking the necessary measures. In her memoirs, Carla del Ponte is convinced that the intimidation of witnesses played a key role in the acquittal of Ramush Haradinaj and Fatmir Limaj.
“I am convinced that UNMIK and even KFOR officers feared for their lives and those of the members of their mission. I think some ICTY judges were afraid of becoming a target for Albanians, “writes the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Intimidation or even ” blackmail ” of the Kosovars towards the Westerners, hitherto ” too much anxious to preserve the image of victims ” Albanians, on which returned recently the Moscow center of Carnegie. The American think tank recalls that when he was first arrested in 2005, Haradinaj threatened to lift areas of western Kosovo – where he is perceived as a hero – against peacekeepers.
Key witness found dead in Germany
In 2010, a new trial -partiel- opens against Ramush Haradinaj, Fatmir Limaj and Lahi Brahimaj, this time under the auspices of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo), with the firm intention of succeeding where the Trial Chamber had failed: to ensure the protection of witnesses, who could thus testify.
The trial turned into a fiasco for the prosecution after the death in Germany of one of the main accusers, Agim Zogaj, himself former commander of the KLA, inflicting a serious setback on the credibility of the witness protection program. EULEX.
Some observers, such as Albanian activist and journalist Avni Zogiani, then lashed out at the New York Times for the EU’s “reckless” search for “symbolic success” in Kosovo, “ignoring what’s happening on the ground”, recalling that there was “nothing new or shocking” in the intimidation and murder of witnesses in Kosovo.
“34 of the 100 witnesses were allowed to conceal their identity, the largest number in the TGIY,” prosecutors said at the time. They had to be summoned because they refused to appear, and others, once inside the courtroom, said they dared not testify, “the American daily reported.
After the death of Agim Zogaj, found hanging in a park, a death that was not the first in the file, witnesses began to retract, to change their version. On 29 November, Ramush Haradinaj – and this time his two co-defendants – were all acquitted.
24 years after its creation by the UN Security Council, the ICTY closed its doors. The inability to try Kosovar war criminals (with the exception of Haradin Bala), who was in power at the end of November 2017, weighed heavily on the failure of this court, which aimed to differentiate itself from the ” courts of law “. winners “and reconcile Serbs, Montenegrins, Croats, Bosnians and Albanians.
“The investigation of KLA fighters has been the most frustrating of all ICTY investigations,” conceded Carla Del Ponte.
It remains to be seen whether the European special court will succeed where all previous international judicial initiatives have failed. It is worth noting that although the new war crimes chambers in Kosovo are located in The Hague and their judges are independent of the Kosovar judiciary, they remain an integral part of Kosovo’s justice system. For their part, the Serbian authorities do not seem to be hoping for anything.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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