Skip to comments.Kosovo's Haradinaj faces murder/rape charges
Posted on 03/10/2005 10:38:03 AM PST by Alex Marko
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj faces charges of murder, rape and the deportation of Serb civilians from his time as a leader of ethnic Albanian rebels, the U.N. tribunal says.
The war crimes indictment against Haradinaj, who resigned on Tuesday to face trial, was kept under wraps until he was taken into custody after flying to The Hague from Kosovo on Wednesday.
Prosecutors have charged Haradinaj, a former regional commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with 17 counts of crimes against humanity and 20 counts of violations of the laws or customs of war during the 1998-99 separatist war.
The indictment said he had mounted a violent campaign to expel ethnic Serbs and Roma from Kosovo after NATO bombing drove out Serb forces in 1999. He also took part in the beatings of detainees, and on at least one occasion gave his tacit approval for detainees to be executed.
Haradinaj, 36, whose surrender was applauded by the United Nations, NATO and the European Union, denies the charges and has called evidence against him an attempt to discredit the KLA by those close to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
The tribunal also made public on Thursday charges against two aides who surrendered with him: Idriz Balaj, commander of a special KLA unit called the "Black Eagles", and Lahi Brahimaj, a relative of Haradinaj and deputy KLA commander of his Dukagjin region.
Both are charged by prosecutors with 16 counts of crimes against humanity, including unlawful detention, deportation, murder and rape, and 19 counts of violations of the laws or customs of war.
The rape charge against all three men relates to an alleged rape by Balaj.
Haradinaj, considered a hero by many Kosovo Albanians, is the most senior former Kosovo guerrilla to be indicted for alleged atrocities in the war against Serb forces.
SERBS, ROMA DRIVEN FROM HOMES
Fears of a violent backlash over the indictment saw British troops this week reinforcing the NATO-led peace force in Kosovo, run by the United Nations since 11 weeks of NATO bombing drove out Serb forces in 1999.
The bombing campaign halted Serb repression of Albanian civilians but also granted victory to Albanian separatist guerrillas. Revenge attacks prompted up to 200,000 Serb civilians to flee their religious heartland.
The indictment said Haradinaj launched a systematic campaign to force ethnic Serb and Roma out of their homes and kill those who remained behind. "Tens of civilians" went missing in the zone under his command.
It said KLA forces under his command attacked ethnic Albanian civilians perceived as collaborators and that at least 16 civilians were beaten and tortured at a makeshift detention centre run by Brahimaj. One is known to have died, while the others are still missing, the indictment said.
"Haradinaj ... established a system whereby individuals were targeted for abduction, mistreatment and murder, and whereby a systematic attack on vulnerable sections of the civilian population was carried out," it said.
"Haradinaj personally ordered, controlled and participated in beatings of persons detained by his forces," it added.
Kosovo's government has called for Haradinaj's provisional release pending trial and offered him legal assistance.
A former nightclub bouncer in Switzerland who was appointed prime minister in late 2004, Haradinaj has urged Kosovo's Albanian majority of close to 2 million people to keep up their struggle for independence ahead of negotiations later this year.
Peace will return to Kosovo only when the Serb Army returns.
And return they will.
More than 1000 Albanians have been murdered by KLA thugs since June 1999. They would be glad to see the justice finally done.