Displeased with the fact that some prosecution witnesses either arrived late in The Hague or ended up not testifying although they were on the witness list, Ramush Haradinaj’s defense lawyer called for a strict deadline for the prosecution to rest its case. The presiding judge indicated he shared the defense’s concern but recalled that the trial already had to be repeated because of problems with the witnesses. As the presiding judge noted, the Trial Chamber would like to avoid any further retrials for the same reason

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

Defense counsel Ben Emmerson voiced his concern today over the pace of the trial of his client Ramush Haradinaj and two other accused, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj. Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj are on trial for crimes in the KLA prison camp in the village of Jablanica in Kosovo in 1998. As Emmerson put it, his concern was caused by the fact that some prosecution witness came to The Hague later than previously scheduled. Emmerson expected there would be ‘new manipulations’ on the part of the prosecution regarding the evidence of Witness 81.

Witness 81 was scheduled to testify last month but the testimony was postponed for 21 November 2011 ‘without any explanation on the part of the prosecution’, Emmerson emphasized. Witness 81 is either the last or one of the two remaining prosecution witnesses: this depends on the decision of the prosecution whether to call Witness 80. The defense is concerned because the Trial Chamber in its recent scheduling order has left open the possibility that the prosecution case may spill over to February 2012. ‘In the interest of justice and the rights of the accused’, the defense argued that the prosecution should rest its case by the end of 2011. The defense lawyer noted that Witness 81 changed the statements he gave to the prosecution several times ‘under the influence of the officials in the country of his residence’. According to Emmerson, the witness also demanded the ‘armed escort’ of persons from that country on his trip to The Hague.

Prosecutor Paul Rogers replied that there were no obstacles for the witness 81 to begin his evidence on 21 November 2011. Rogers added that the evidence of the witnesses had been delayed in part to accommodate the defense. The witnesses’ scheduled arrivals in The Hague were changed to fit the schedules of the defense lawyers.

Presiding judge Bakone Moloto said that the Trial Chamber ‘shares the concern’ of the defense but wanted to allow the prosecution to call all its witnesses; otherwise, there might be further retrials for the same reason as this one. In line with the decision of the Appeals Chamber, Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj are to be retried on six of the 37 counts in the indictment, because the judges concluded the trial had ended prematurely, before they had an opportunity to hear two prosecution witnesses, former KLA member Shefqet Kabashi and a protected witness. If there were to be a new re-trial, the accused would have to remain in detention a lot longer than if they had to wait for all the witnesses to be examined, even if there were a delay, the presiding judge said.

At the trial of the three former KLA commanders, Witness 75 was cross-examined today, for the most part in closed session. The cross-examination was interrupted about half-way through the hearing today. The witness will continue his evidence tomorrow morning when counsel will be appointed to him to advise him about the parts of his testimony about his asylum hearing in the country where he sought asylum. Brahimaj’s defense counsel Richard Harvey suggested in the cross-examination that the witness ‘lied that his brother was killed’ at that hearing; he was under oath. According to Harvey, this means that the witness might have lied in his evidence in The Hague too, where he said his brother was beaten in the KLA prison camp in Jablanica.