A protected prosecution witness described what Ramush Haradinaj and other KLA members did in the spring and summer of 1998 to pressure the FARK commanders – the rival Kosovo Albanian army – into withdrawing to Albania. The indictment alleges that Haradinaj did that ‘to allow his soldiers to dominate in the Dukagjin area and persecute civilians’

Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Baljaj and Lahi Brahimaj in the courtroomRamush Haradinaj, Idriz Baljaj and Lahi Brahimaj in the courtroom

The trial of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj continued after a three-week break with the evidence of a protected prosecution witness testifying under the pseudonym 77. In June 1998, the witness was a member of the 134th Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo (FARK). Under the command of Colonel Tahir Zemaj, the FARK entered Kosovo from Albania and set up a camp in the village of Jasic near Djakovica. Their goal was to reach Decani and join the fight against the Serbian army and police.

Testifying with image and voice distortion to protect his identity, Witness 77 said that the FARK brigade had about 200 soldiers and 25 officers. Their plan was thwarted because the KLA commanders in the area were against it. Several days after the 134th brigade entered Kosovo, the KLA and FARK commanders held a meeting in the village of Junik. As far as the witness knows, Ramush Haradinaj and Naim Maloku ordered Tahir Zemaj to withdraw his unit back to Albania. This didn’t happen, but the FARK brigade never reached Decani. The brigade first moved to the village of Istinic and then set up a make-shift barracks in the village of Papracane.

Ramush Haradinaj arrived in the barracks soon, accompanied by Idriz Balaj and a group of soldiers in black uniform, the witness said. They requested that the FARK leave the site within 20 to 30 minutes. Colonel Zemaj agreed and temporarily withdrew the unit. Several days later, they returned to the village of Papracane when an agreement was reached with Haradinaj. Instead of honoring the agreement, the soldiers, led by Idriz Balaj a/k/a Toger, started abusing the FARK members. The witness first took shelter in Ulcinj, and at one point he decided to go back to Albania.He changed his mind when he heard that five members of the 134th brigade had been killed. As the witness said, his brother told him that Balaj purportedly took them from the unit and then killed them.

Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj are charged with crimes against Albanians, Serbs and Roma in the KLA prison camp in Jablanica, committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise, whose goal was to establish full control over the Dukagjin operational zone by ‘unlawful elimination and abuse’ of civilians who were considered as enemies because of their ethnic background or purported collaboration with the Serb forces. The indictment alleges that Ramush Haradinaj participated in the joint criminal enterprise by ‘eliminating all the rival forces’ in the Dukagjin area including the FARK, ‘to allow his soldiers to dominate the area and persecute civilians’.

As the hearing today drew to a close, Haradinaj’s defense counsel Ben Emmerson began cross-examining the witness. Emmerson put it to him that the conflict between the KLA and the FARK broke out because the FARK commanders disagreed with the proposal to join, in smaller groups, the existing KLA units in Kosovo villages. ‘I don’t believe this is the case’, the witness tersely responded. The cross-examination continues tomorrow morning.