Haradinaj and Balaj Acquitted 04 Apr 2008
The ICTY Trial Chamber acquitted Haradinaj and Balaj of all charges. A third indictee, Brahimaj, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for violations of the laws and customs of war.

On 3 April 2008, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Trial Chamber I rendered its judgment in the case against Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj. Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj were both acquitted of all charges. Lahi Brahimaj was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for cruel treatment and torture as violations of the laws and customs of war.

                 Haradinaj (right) and Balaj (middle) were acquitted. Brahimaj (left) was sentenced to six years' imprisonment.

The accused faced 18 charges of crimes against humanity and 19 charges of violations of the laws or customs of war for crimes committed by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) forces between March and September 1998. The alleged crimes included harassment, deportation or forcible transfer of civilians, imprisonment, torture, murders, rape, abduction and cruel treatment. During the period relevant to the indictment, Haradinaj, former Prime Minister of Kosovo, was a commander of the KLA in the Dukagjin area. Balaj was the commander of the Black Eagles Unit within the KLA and Brahimaj was a KLA member stationed in the KLA Jablanica/Jabllanicë headquarters in the Ðakovica/Gjakovë municipality.

The Trial Chamber found that the ill-treatment, forcible transfer, and killing accusations were not on a scale or of a frequency that constituted an attack against a civilian population. Because the general elements for crimes against humanity were therefore not met, the Chamber acquitted all three accused of all counts alleging crimes against humanity. Additionally, the Trial Chamber was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a joint criminal enterprise with the objective of targeting civilians, based on the evidence presented. Therefore the three accused could not have participated in a joint criminal enterprise. Concerning the remaining 19 charges of violations of the laws and customs of war, the Trial Chamber found sufficient evidence for only two of those counts pertaining only to Lahi Brahimaj.

Before summarising its findings, the Chamber highlighted the significant difficulties encountered in securing the testimony of a large number of witnesses. Presiding Judge Orie stated, “The Chamber gained a strong impression that the trial was being held in an atmosphere where witnesses felt unsafe.”

The trial commenced on 5 March 2007 and the Prosecution’s case ended in November 2007. Closing arguments were heard between 21 and 23 January 2008. The Prosecution had requested 25 years’ imprisonment for Haradinaj. All three defence teams chose not to call any evidence, claiming that the Prosecution had failed to prove any of the charges.

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