A protected prosecution witness contested the defense case that the two Kosovo Albanian armies, the KLA and FARK, united after a brief conflict. The witness insisted that the goal of the KLA and Ramush Haradinaj was to eliminate the rival FARK headed by Tahir Zemaj

Ben Emmerson, defence attorney of HaradinajBen Emmerson, defence attorney of Haradinaj

In the cross-examination of a protected prosecution witness testifying under the pseudonym 77, Ramush Haradinaj’s defense counsel tried to contest his claims about the causes and development of the conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo in the summer of 1998 in Dukagjin, an area in Western Kosovo. Yesterday, the witness claimed that KLA wanted to expel the FARK from Kosovo. The defense lawyer put it to him that the brief conflict between the two armies was resolved by mid-July 1998, two weeks after the first FARK soldiers arrived in Kosovo. After that, the two Kosovo Albanian armies fought ‘side by side’.

The defense is trying to contest the allegation in the indictment 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’. The FARK was established by the then Kosovo government in exile and its field commander was Tahir Zemaj. Ramush Haradinaj is on trial together with Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj for their participation in the joint criminal enterprise aimed at ‘the unlawful elimination and abuse’ of civilians who were considered enemies because of their ethnicity or purported collaboration with the Serb forces. The goal was implemented by killing and torturing Serbs, Roma and Albanians in the KLA prison camp in Jablanica.

Today Witness 77 altered slightly the claim he made yesterday at the beginning of his cross-examination, when he said he didn’t believe that the conflict between the KLA and FARK was caused by the disagreement about the deployment of FARK troops in Kosovo, rather than the KLA intention to expel the FARK from Kosovo. In the vigorous cross-examination, defense counsel Ben Emmerson got the witness to admit that the disagreements about the deployment of the FARK boiled down to the fact that they were given an ultimatum to either subordinate to Ramush Haradinaj or to return to Albania.

The defense put it to the witness that the conflict lasted only two weeks and was resolved at a meeting of Haradinaj and Zemaj on 10 July 1998. The two commanders agreed that the FARK should be integrated into the existing KLA structure. From that moment on, the defense counsel contended, the relations between the commanders of the two armies improved significantly. In September 1998, Zemaj took over the command from Haradinaj in the KLA operational zone in Dukagjin. As the witness explained, he, as a regular soldier, was not in a position to know what deals the commanders may have made. The relations between Haradinaj and Zemaj did improve with time, the witness admitted, but he didn’t know if the FARK really got integrated into the KLA.

The witness was in the village of Barane on 20 July 1998 at a ceremony where FARK and KLA soldiers took their oaths together. The defense counsel showed a video recording of the ceremony. The witness remarked, ‘I may have been a bit late for the ceremony’, and he missed Haradinaj’s and Zemaj’s speeches. According to the defense, the fact that they spoke together showed they were close. In the cross-examination, the defense lawyer repeatedly accused the witness of lying, putting it to him that he had come to The Hague with a ‘plan to discredit Ramush Haradinaj’. The witness dismissed the allegations, saying ‘I don’t testify to get revenge but justice’. The cross-examination of the protected witness 77 continues tomorrow.