UN War Crimes Tribunal Acquits Former Kosovo PM

Posted November 29th, 2012 at 6:25 am (UTC-5)
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A United Nations tribunal has acquitted former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and two associates of war crimes.

Prosecutors had alleged that during the fighting in Kosovo in the late 1990s, the men were part of a joint enterprise that abducted and tortured 16 civilians, and ultimately killed eight of them.

Haradinaj was a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a group prosecutors said wanted to establish control in western Kosovo by removing all Serbs, Roma and other civilians opposed to the group from the area.

The Hague-based court on Thursday cleared Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj of all charges and ordered their immediate release. Cheers went up in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.

The judgment clears the way for Haradinaj to return to politics in Kosovo, where he stepped down as prime minister in 2005 after serving 100 days in office. He is considered a national hero by most ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

The ruling could also complicate talks between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and is recognized as an independent state by around 90 nations. Serbia insists that Kosovo remains a Serbian province.

The trial was the first ever partial retrial by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Haradinaj and Balaj were acquitted in a 2008 trial, while Brahimaj was sentenced to six years in prison. The Hague Appeals Chamber ordered all three to be tried again, saying the first trial was plagued with witness intimidation.