INTERETHNIC CONFLICT OR FAMILY QUARREL?
Ramush Haradinaj’s defense blames the kidnapping and murder of Milovan and Milka Vlahovic on people who used the chaos in the Glodjani area to “settle the accounts with their family”
Milojica Vlahovic, witness in the Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj trial
As the trial of three former KLA commanders continued today, Ramush Haradinaj’s defense counsel Ben Emmerson provided an alternative explanation for the killings in the Glodjani area in Kosovo in an effort to exonerate the KLA for those crimes. According to him, the killings were the consequence of “settling of accounts between families”. The accused Ramush Haradinaj was the KLA commander in Glodjani area, the indictment alleges.
In his cross-examination of the witness Milojica Vlahovic, Emmerson insisted that the situation in the Glodjani area in the spring of 1998 had been “chaotic and tense”, deteriorating even further after a few incidents involving the Serbian forces and the KLA.. Vlahovic, whose parents were taken from village Gornji Ratis and then killed by armed Albanians, confirmed those allegations. The defense counsel asked him whether this atmosphere, after the police withdrew, had resulted in some families trying to “settle their accounts” with the families they had quarreled with in the past. “My parents and my family had not quarreled with anyone, but I don’t know about others”, Vlahovic replied.
The defense counsel contested Vlahovic’s evidence about his parents being taken to Glodjani in late April or early May 1998. Vlahovic had been told that by his Albanian neighbors. According to Emmerson, the neighbor saw them on the road to Glodjani, which does not mean that they were actually taken there. At Rznic, the road splits into three roads, so they could have ended up in Glodjani, Decani or Kodralija. The witness responded that, had that been the case, his parents would have been alive today, alluding to the fact that this territory was controlled by the Serbian forces.
In his effort to contest the credibility of the witness, the defense counsel argued that the witness had done more than merely enquired about his parents’ fate in Gornji Ratis and other villages in September 1998. He was also looting Albanian houses, the defense counsel put it to him. Vlahovic was shown a statement by Halil Sadikaj from Dasinovac, a neighboring village. Sadikaj said that his father Shaban had been beaten up by Vlahovic and his relatives. The witness dismissed these allegations.
Milka Vlahovic’s body was found on 12 September 1998 in a canal near the Radonjic lake. Her body was not identified immediately. Haradinaj’s defense counsel brought up other problems related to the identification of the witness’s father. The Vlahovic family received his body, but a subsequent analysis proved that the remains belonged to an Albanian victim. The witness’s father is still missing, although the indictment alleges that both his and his wife’s bodies were found near the Radonjic lake.
The trial of Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj continued with the testimony of Goran Vlahovic, Milojica Vlahovic’s brother.
- Case : Haradinaj et al.
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