Skender Rexhametaj, former KLA commander from the village of Istinic in Kosovo, said in his statements to the OTP investigators that Ramush Haradinaj became the commander of the Dukagjin Operational Zone on 23 June 1998. In the cross-examination, the witness agreed with the defense counsel that no one issued orders in the area. In the KLA, decisions were made by ‘consensus’. At the beginning of the hearing, the evidence of protected witness 75 was interrupted

Skender Rexhahmetaj, witness at the Haradinaj, Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj trialSkender Rexhahmetaj, witness at the Haradinaj, Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj trial

The evidence of a protected prosecution witness testifying under the pseudonym 75 at the trial of former KLA commanders, Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, was interrupted today before the witness even entered the courtroom. The reason was the purported failure of the prosecution to disclose to the defense all the documents about the witness’s asylum application in a country where he sought refuge after he left Kosovo and about the OTP’s role in the procedure.

Brahimaj’s defense counsel Harvey insisted right from the start of his cross-examination that Witness 75 had agreed to testify in The Hague as a prosecution witness in order to improve his chances in the procedure of obtaining asylum or refugee documents in a foreign country. This prompted the defense to demand that the prosecution disclose the entire file on this issue. Two documents were disclosed today. According to Haradinaj’s defense counsel Emmerson, one document is the e-mail correspondence between the witness’s lawyer and an OTP investigator. The correspondence indicates that ‘prosecutor Rodgers deliberately and knowingly intervened to assist the witness in his asylum application’.

The defense lawyers claim that the materials should have been disclosed much earlier as they affect the witness’s credibility. The defense teams joined in their demand for prosecutor Rogers to be sanctioned and called for the trial to be adjourned pending the disclosure of the remaining material about the asylum proceedings that the prosecution either has or is able to obtain. Presiding judge Moloto granted the latter request, and the prosecution did not protest. The judges will decide on the sanctions after the parties submit their written briefs.

After Witness 75 was excused until further notice, the prosecutor called Skender Rexhahmetaj, former KLA commander from the village of Istinic near Decani. The witness’s statements from 2006 and 2010 were admitted into evidence today. In them, the witness said what he knew about the functioning of the KLA in the Dukagjin area, which was under Ramush Haradinaj command, as the prosecution alleges. According to the summary of the statements read out today, the village of Jablanica wasn’t under Haradinaj’s control until the second half of June 1998. The three accused are on trial for crimes against Serb, Albanian and Roma prisoners in Jablanica. The witness contends that in the early spring of 1998 Western Kosovo was split into five sub-zones and Jablanica didn’t belong to any of them. On 23 June 1998, a single operational zone of Dukagjin was declared and put under Haradinaj’s command. Jablanica was part of its territory.

In the cross-examination, the witness agreed with Haradinaj’s lawyer Emmerson that from March to September 1998 there was virtually no vertical command structure. There was a horizontal chain of command in which nobody, not even Haradinaj, issued orders and decisions were made by ‘consensus’. It was an army without a formal structure, the witness explained. Haradinaj was ‘respected’ but he was not a commander in the full meaning of the word. Skender Rexhahmetaj continues his evidence tomorrow afternoon.