«Retrial Judgement Summary for Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj International Criminal Tribunal for the former Please find below the ...»
JUDGEMENT SUMMARY TRIAL CHAMBER
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 29 November 2012
Retrial Judgement Summary for
Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj
for the former
Please find below the summary of the Judgement read out today by Judge Moloto.
Yugoslavia Tribunal Pénal This Chamber is sitting today to deliver Judgement in the trial of the three accused persons, International pour l’ex-Yougoslavie Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj, and Lahi Brahimaj.
For the purposes of this hearing, the Chamber will summarise briefly its findings, emphasising that this is a summary only, and that the only authoritative account of the Chamber’s findings and of its reasons for those findings is to be found in the written Judgement, copies of which will be made available to the Parties at the conclusion of this sitting.
The three Accused, Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj, and Lahi Brahimaj, are charged as members of a joint criminal enterprise or, alternatively, under other modes of individual criminal responsibility, with crimes allegedly committed by them or by other members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (“KLA”) in 1998 against Kosovo Serbs, Kosovo Roma/Egyptian, Kosovo Albanian or other civilians in a compound of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the village of Jabllanicë/Jablanica in Gjakovë/Đakovica municipality, western Kosovo. The Indictment alleges specific incidents of abduction of a total of 16 Kosovo Albanians, Kosovo Serbs, Kosovo Roma and other civilians, who, it is alleged, were detained and subjected to torture and cruel treatment at the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. It is further alleged that eight of these individuals were killed while in KLA custody. These allegations form the basis of six counts of violations of the laws or customs of war, namely cruel treatment, torture, and murder, charged under Article 3 of the Statute against Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj. Lahi Brahimaj is charged with four of these counts.
This case is a partial retrial. The three A
On 21 July 2010, the Appeals Chamber, Judge Robinson dissenting, granted in part the Prosecution’s appeal and quashed the Trial Chamber’s decisions to acquit the Accused of certain counts in the indictment related to crimes alleged to have been committed at the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. The Appeals Chamber ordered a partial retrial with respect to these counts. The trial commenced on 18 August 2011. The Chamber received evidence from 56 witnesses, including the two witnesses with respect to whom the retrial was ordered.
The present Indictment alleges that at the material time Ramush Haradinaj was a commander of the KLA Dukagjin Operational Zone in western Kosovo and that as such he had overall command of the KLA forces in this area. Idriz Balaj is alleged to have been a member of the KLA, a direct subordinate to Ramush Haradinaj, and the commander of a rapid intervention special unit known as the “Black Eagles”. Lahi Brahimaj is alleged to have been a member of the KLA stationed at Jabllanicë/Jablanica throughout the Indictment period and a subordinate to Ramush Haradinaj. Lahi Brahimaj is alleged to have served briefly as deputy commander of the Dukagjin Operational Zone and, subsequently, as the finance director of the KLA General Staff.
With respect to the six counts of violations of the laws or customs of war charged in the
Indictment, the Chamber made the following findings:
On 13 June 1998 Witness 6, a Catholic Kosovo Albanian, was abducted by KLA soldiers from the road between Gjakovë/Đakovica and Klinë/Klina. He was detained in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica for approximately six weeks where he was subjected to repeated beatings by KLA soldiers including Nazmi Brahimaj, Lahi Brahimaj, and Hamza Brahimaj. Witness 6 was accused of consorting with Serbs and spying. On 25 July 1998 Witness 6 was released from the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica by Nazmi Brahimaj.
The Chamber is satisfied that the charges of torture and cruel treatment of Witness 6 are established. This count is not charged against Lahi Brahimaj.
On 13 June 1998 Nenad Remištar, a traffic policeman of Serb ethnicity, was removed from his vehicle by KLA soldiers, on the road between Klinë/Klina and Gjakovë/Đakovica. He was taken to the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. There, he was severely beaten by Nazmi Brahimaj and other KLA soldiers. On the following day, 14 June 1998, Nenad Remištar was removed from the room in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica where he was detained and never seen again. He is still unaccounted for. The Chamber is satisfied that the allegations of torture and cruel treatment of Nenad Remištar are established. The Prosecution presented no evidence about what happened to Nenad Remištar following his removal from a room in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. The Chamber concludes in the circumstances that the murder of Nenad Remištar is not established.
Towards the end of June 1998 one unknown Bosnian man and three unknown Montenegrin men were brought to the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica where they were beaten and stabbed with knives by KLA soldiers in the presence of Nazmi Brahimaj and Hamza Brahimaj. The unknown Bosnian man was accused of interrupting the electricity. The Chamber is satisfied that the allegations of cruel treatment of these four men and the charge of torture of the unknown Bosnian are established. In the absence of evidence that the mistreatment of the three unknown Montenegrin men was carried out with the requisite intent for torture, the Chamber concludes that the charge of torture of the three Montenegrin men is not established.
On approximately 13 or 14 July 1998 Skender Kuçi, a Kosovo Albanian, was brought to the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica in the boot of his car and was detained in a room in the KLA compound. He was beaten on his arrival in the courtyard and in the room where he was detained, by KLA soldiers, including Nazmi Brahimaj and Hamza Brahimaj, in the presence of Lahi Brahimaj. On the following day, i.e. on approximately 14 or 15 July 1998, Pal Krasniqi, a Catholic Kosovo Albanian who had left his home in Pejë/Peć on 10 July 1998 with the intention of joining the KLA, was brought to the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. He was detained in the same room with Skender Kuçi. A few hours later Witness 3, a Kosovo Albanian, was brought by Lahi Brahimaj to the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica and was detained in the room with Skender Kuçi and Pal Krasniqi.
The three men were subjected to repeated beatings in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. A witness described the state Skender Kuçi and Pal Krasniqi were in as a result of the beatings like this: “I never saw anyone in a worse condition. I have seen people dead, killed during the war. But people reduced to that plight I had never seen before. In a very, very bad condition”. During the beatings Pal Krasniqi was accused of being a spy and Skender Kuçi, of having a lot of money. Witness 3 was interrogated by Lahi Brahimaj following which Lahi Brahimaj asked two women to practice beating with batons on Witness 3. The Chamber is satisfied that the allegations of torture and cruel treatment with respect to Skender Kuçi, Pal Krasniqi, and Witness 3 are established. This count is not charged against Lahi Brahimaj.
On approximately 15 or 16 July 1998, the day of his failed attempt to escape from the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica, Skender Kuçi was beaten severely, following which he was brought to a hospital where he died. The Chamber is satisfied that the death of Skender Kuçi was caused by (complications of) the injuries inflicted on him during the beatings in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. The charge of murder of Skender Kuçi is established.
Pal Krasniqi was subjected to severe and repeated beatings in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. He was last seen by Witness 6 at the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica on 25 July 1998. His body was discovered in September 1998 at the Lake Radoniq/Radonjić canal with gunshot injuries to the head, trunk, and upper limbs.
The Prosecution has presented no evidence as to the circumstances in which he died. In the circumstances, the Chamber cannot conclude beyond reasonable doubt that the charge of murder of Pal Krasniqi is established.
On a day after the attack by the Serbian forces on the village of Grabanicë/Grabanica on or about 19 May 1998, Naser Lika and Fadil Fazliu were removed by force by KLA soldiers from a house in Zhabel/Žabelj. During the incident the KLA soldiers called Fadil Fazliu and Naser Lika “traitors”. The KLA soldiers beat and kicked Naser Lika and Fadil Fazliu in Zhabel/Žabelj. The Chamber is satisfied that the allegations of torture and cruel treatment of Naser Lika and Fadil Fazliu with respect to their forceful removal from Zhabel/Žabelj are established.
The Chamber, therefore, is satisfied that Counts 3, 4, 5, and the forceful removal of Naser Lika and Fadil Fazliu from Zhabel/Žabelj by KLA soldiers alleged in Count 6 are established.
Count 1 of the Indictment alleges the murder, cruel treatment and torture of Ivan Zari}, a Kosovo Serb, and Agron Berisha and Burim Bejta, both of Kosovo Roma/Egyptian origin. The evidence establishes that the three men left the village of Dollc/Dolac on 17 or 18 May 1998 on a horse-drawn cart in the direction of the mill in the village of Grabanicë/Grabanica where they were going to grind a sack of corn. They arrived in Grabanicë/Grabanica the same day. The three men were never seen by their relatives after that day. The Prosecution offered two witnesses to prove events that, it alleges, occurred after Ivan Zarić, Agron Berisha, and Burim Bejta were last seen by their relatives. One of these witnesses gave evidence suggesting that the three men were mistreated in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica and killed and that the three Accused were involved in the mistreatment and killing. The other witness gave evidence suggesting that Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj were involved in mistreatment, including of the three victims. The first witness changed his account a number of times in material respects. He contradicted himself repeatedly and his evidence was contradicted by other evidence in the proceedings.
The evidence of the second witness was characterised by significant inconsistencies and contradictions. The Chamber was not satisfied of the reliability of the evidence of either of these two witnesses. For reasons fully set out in the written Judgement, the Chamber finds that Count 1 is not established.
Count 2 alleges the murder and cruel treatment of two Roma/Egyptian men, Ukë Rexhepaj and his son-in-law Nesret Alijaj from the village of Grabanicë/Grabanica. The evidence establishes that on 20 May 1998 Ukë Rexhepaj and Nesret Alijaj were stopped on the road between Grabanicë/Grabanica and Dollovë/Dolovo by men dressed in dark-green camouflage clothing, who were speaking Albanian. These men tied the hands of Ukë Rexhepaj and Nesret Alijaj, blindfolded them, and threw them into a car which left in an unknown direction. The Prosecution presented no direct evidence as to what happened to Ukë Rexhepaj and Nesret Alijaj after they were abducted from the road between Grabanicë/Grabanica and Dollovë/Dolovo. It seeks to rely on the evidence of a witness in another trial, whose evidence on this issue was not subjected to cross-examination, referring to a son-in-law and a father-in-law of Roma origin, whose identity is not known, being present in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. For reasons, fully set out in the written Judgement, the Chamber finds that Count 2 is not established.
Count 6 contains further allegations of mistreatment of Naser Lika, a Kosovo Albanian, in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica. The Prosecution called only one witness in support of this charge; this was one of the two witnesses it offered in support of Count 1.
The Chamber was not satisfied that this witness was a reliable witness. In particular, the Chamber was not persuaded that the witness was indeed present in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica at the material time and that he actually observed the events he testified about. The Chamber was left with the clear impression that this witness may have retold what he might have heard from others. For reasons fully set out in the written Judgement, the Chamber finds that the allegations of torture and cruel treatment of Naser Lika in the KLA compound in Jabllanicë/Jablanica, contained in Count 6, are not established.
A central allegation in the present Indictment is the existence of a joint criminal enterprise (I will refer to it as “JCE”), the alleged common purpose of which was to consolidate the total control of the KLA over the Dukagjin Operational Zone, by the unlawful removal and mistreatment of Kosovo Serb civilians and by the mistreatment of Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Roma/Egyptian civilians, and other civilians, who were, or were perceived to have been, collaborators with the Serbian forces or otherwise not supporting the KLA. This JCE is alleged to have existed from on or about March 1998 until at least late September 1998.
The Prosecution presented no direct evidence to prove that the established crimes were committed as part of a JCE in which the three Accused participated. The Chamber considered circumstantial evidence tendered by the Prosecution to prove this allegation.