Ramush Haradinaj’s defense lawyer claims the protected prosecution witness ‘fabricated’ his entire testimony about his visits to the KLA prison camp in Jablanica in 1998 and the abuse of prisoners at the hands of the three accused. The witness responded by levying accusations at the defense; at one point, he swore at the lawyer

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

At the beginning of the cross-examination of the protected prosecution witness 81, Ramush Haradinaj’s defense lawyer accused him of having ‘fabricated’ his entire testimony about the events in Jablanica in the spring of 1998. British lawyer Ben Emmerson contends that the witness ‘was never a KLA member, was never in Jablanica’ and never saw any crimes against prisoners in the prison camp, contradicting the claims the witness made in his examination-in chief.

In the two days of his testimony, Witness 81 said he had visited the KLA prison camp in Jablanica three times in 1998. During his visits, the witness saw the three accused, Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, severely abuse two Roma and one Serb prisoner. The witness also said that Haradinaj ordered the prisoners to be killed; the prisoners were then taken to a local hospital where they died soon afterwards as a consequence of the beating and the knife wounds inflicted by Balaj. During his third visit to Jablanica, the witness saw Lahi Brahimaj beat a Serb police officer with a baseball bat. The three former KLA commanders are charged in six counts of the indictment with crimes against the prisoners of the Jablanica prison camp.

More than a half of the hearing today proceeded in closed session; the parts that went on in open session were marred by vicious verbal battles between the defense and the witness. In his statements to the OTP investigators last November and December the witness said things that differ substantially from his evidence in court. The defense insisted on the discrepancies.

Firstly, the defense noted, the witness said in a statement that Brahimaj took out a Roma youth and cut off his ear. The very next day, however, in the same statement he amended his claim, saying Balaj cut off the ear of a young Serbian man. Yesterday in court the witness recounted a third version of the story, saying that Balaj cut off the ears of both the Serbian and the Roma youths. In his statements to the investigators, the witness first claimed Brahimaj put out the Serb’s eye, only to change his statement and say it was in fact Balaj who did that.

When he was asked why there were such discrepancies in his statements, the witness said he had been under stress while giving the statements and that he had been concerned about his safety. ‘I may have made mistakes, but this was because I was afraid, you mentioned my family name here, I’m still afraid and it is only natural I’m making mistakes’, the witness tried to explain. When the defense lawyer asked him why he might be afraid to say that a Roma man lost his ear, and was fine saying the victim was a Serb, the witness said, ‘if you were in my shoes, you’d know’.

Haradinaj’s defense lawyer said he understood that the witness was unable to stick consistently to the ‘script’, but the reason was not fear, but the fact that the whole story was made up of ‘fabrications and lies’. The witness responded violently, telling the defense lawyer he was liar. As the cross-examinations progressed, tempers frayed even further. At one point, Haradinaj’s lawyer Emmerson noted that the witness said in his written statement that Brahimaj’s brother Nazmi also beat prisoners, while yesterday he testified Nazmi stood aside. When the defense lawyer put it to him it was yet another ‘false claim’, the witness retorted that the lawyer was ‘a liar working for money’, that he was ‘ridiculous’. At one point, he actually swore at the lawyer. Quite surprisingly, the Chamber did not react at all.

The hearing ended early today at the witness’s request and is set to continue tomorrow morning.