Skip to comments.War crimes indictment could push teetering Kosovo to edge
Posted on 01/05/2005 5:25:12 AM PST by Alex Marko
The possibly imminent indictment for war crimes of Kosovo's prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, threatens to provoke a new crisis in the breakaway Serbian province that was invaded by British and other forces in 1999 and remains under uneasy UN and Nato control. Mr Haradinaj, who took office last month, is a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The Serbian government accuses him of complicity in atrocities committed in the Decani region of western Kosovo in 1998-99. Belgrade has issued an arrest warrant and is refusing to deal with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority leadership while he remains in power.
The chief prosecutor of the international criminal tribunal for former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, also has her eye on Mr Haradinaj. He was interviewed by war crimes investigators late last year. He has dismissed all the accusations as Serb lies. Now Ms Del Ponte's tribunal is about to make a decision. Its final list of indictments, possibly issued under seal, is expected this weekend.
If Mr Haradinaj is suddenly charged and carted off to The Hague the reaction in Kosovo could be explosive. If action against him is shelved because of his prominent position, analysts say that already grudging Serbian cooperation with the tribunal may be seriously jeopardised.
The situation in Kosovo five years after the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's troops were sent packing remains deeply problematic without such complications. A decision is due this year on its final status: as a part of Serbia, as now, or as an independent state, as most ethnic Albanians want.
But as the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, noted last month, security problems and the political stalemate between Albanians and what remains of the ethnic Serb minority (an estimated 200,000 have fled since 1999) continue to obstruct economic development, democratic institution-building, and power sharing. In short, the province is as divided as ever.
Mr Annan warned that "sustained action" by the international community was essential if a recurrence of last March's violence was to be prevented. Then, 19 people died, nearly 1,000 were injured and hundreds of homes and cultural sites were burned by Albanian extremists intent on driving out the Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities.
This renewed bout of "ethnic cleansing", the reverse of that suffered on a larger scale by the Albanian population in 1999 and which led to the international intervention, occurred under the noses of nearly 20,000 Nato peacekeepers and the UN.
The deputy head of the UN mission, Larry Rossin, has accused Serbia of discouraging Kosovo's Serbs from cooperating in the province's collective rehabilitation. Others suspect the Belgrade government of the prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, of seeking Kosovo's partition along ethnic lines - and of being ready to countenance more hardline violence to attain that end.
Belgrade encouraged the Serb boycott of last October's elections, a factor that contributed to Mr Haradinaj's ascent. Now Serbia's representative, Neboja Covic, says that "the Serb community cannot join the Kosovo institutions as long as Ramush Haradinaj is the head of government".
A symbolic reminder of how potentially dangerous Kosovo's unfinished business still is came this week when gunmen in Zubin Potok, north of Pristina, shot up two unmanned UN vehicles. If Kosovo blows up again it is feared that Albanians in Macedonia, parallel efforts to build a multi-ethnic state in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia itself could be caught in the blast.
Despite so many worrying portents, Erhard Busek, the special coordinator of the post-1999 EU-backed stability pact charged with promoting democracy and development in the Balkans, says clear ideas about what to do in Kosovo are lamentably lacking.
"There does not seem to be a substantial political debate on Kosovo's future status. Nobody in the international community seems willing to move first," Mr Busek said at Chatham House in London last month.
Mr Busek warned that the Kosovo conundrum reflected a broader problem of EU and international neglect. "We cannot afford to lose the Balkans again."
Milosovic has been on trial for 6 years, I suppose if they arrest this guy his trial will last at least 10 years.
I'm just warning people ahead of time...Kosovo will erupt soon.
There is war, death and destruction wherever Muslims live. They are apparently incapable of living in peace.
But..but..but, I thought this was an example of Clinton's supreme international diplomatic skills. I thought all problems in the Balkans had been ended by Wesley Clarks heroic service there. I thought Kosovo was the model of everything Democratic adminstrations do right that Bush can't do in Iraq.
difference is that this guy is guilty
Haradinaj is a thug. He extorts money from his Dugagjini regions from businesses like a mafia. He was a nightclub bouncer turn guerilla fighter and now PM. What a dumb decision of kosovo voters.
doubt that the voters of Kosovo and Methoija had much choice. Note the the KLA still terrorizes Albanians
The Kla not only terrorizes albanians, but extorts money from them. They are a mafia.