(AFP) – May 1, 2008
THE HAGUE (AFP) — The chief UN war crimes prosecutor will appeal Friday against the acquittal last month of former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj on ethnic cleansing charges, a spokeswoman said.
"We are going to introduce our appeal document tomorrow," Olga Kavran, spokeswoman for Serge Brammertz, told a press conference Thursday in The Hague, home to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
On April 3, the UN war crimes court acquitted ethnic Albanian Haradinaj, a former guerrilla leader, of charges of murdering, raping and torturing Serbs during the 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo.
After a trial marked by the reluctance of witnesses to testify, one of his co-accused, Idriz Balaj, was also acquitted, while a third, Lahi Brahimaj, who headed a notorious detention camp, received a six-year prison term.
The prosecution had asked for 25 years for the three former senior figures in the separatist ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). All had pleaded not guilty.
Haradinaj, 39, was a commander of the KLA guerrilla group at the time of the alleged atrocities, as was Balaj, 36, who allegedly headed a paramilitary unit known as the Black Eagles.
The presiding judge admitted that the trial had taken place in an atmosphere in which witnesses could not feel secure. Thirty four out of 81 witnesses had to receive special protection.
In 2005, after he was indicted by the ICTY, Haradinaj stepped down as prime minister of Kosovo and surrendered to the UN court.
Haradinaj's defence downplayed his role in the KLA, saying it was not really an army but "a movement of terrified Albanian civilians that grew out of village and family groupings."
Serbian officials condemned the acquittal, with outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica describing it as "mockery of justice" and President Boris Tadic calling for an appeal two days after the verdict.
The ICTY is still demanding the arrest and handover of four Serbs -- including Ratko Mladic, the former general accused of genocide over the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the war-time Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica.
Ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February and has since been recognised by the United States and most nations of the EU.
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