PROTECTED WITNESS FROM ‘REMOTE LOCATION’ ACCUSES KLA COMMANDERS
Transcript of the evidence of protected witness who testified under the pseudonym 80 has been made public more than two months after he testified. In his evidence, he accused Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj of taking an active part in the beating, maiming and killing of prisoners in the Jablanica prison in the spring of 1998. Witness 80 also said that Ramush Haradinaj ‘must have known’ about what was going on in there. The defense lawyers contested the witness’s credibility, labeling him a ‘liar, fraud and smuggler’
After the prosecution and the defense presented their closing arguments at the trial of Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj last week, a redacted transcript of the evidence of the last prosecution witness was made public on the Tribunal’s website. The witness testified under the pseudonym 80 from 16 to 20 April 2012 from a ‘remote location’ in the presence of the judges, the prosecution and the defense attorneys. As one of the defense lawyers said in the closing argument, the location was ‘at the end of the world’. The three accused followed the evidence in The Hague via video link. The entire testimony proceeded in closed session.
Former KLA commanders Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj are charged with crimes against Albanian, Roma and Serb prisoners in the KLA prison camp in Jablanica in 1998. Witness 80 testified about the events at that location. He was detained there in the spring of 1998 because he had defected from the KLA to the rival military formation, FARK. The witness claimed that he saw prisoners being brutally beaten. Some of them were never seen again and their names are listed in the indictment against former KLA commanders.
The witness claimed he saw Albanian prisoner Jah Bushati in Jablanica; the man had been beaten so badly that ‘he couldn’t stand’. Several other prisoners were beaten too. As the witness recounted, prison camp commander Lahi Brahimaj and his brother Nazmi really did the number on Skender Kuqi: they ‘beat him until he fainted’. The witness first said that Kuqi died as a result of beatings. Later in the evidence, the witness recanted, saying he ‘wasn’t close enough’ to be able to see what happened but he ‘thought [Kuqi] was dead when the KLA soldiers stretchered him off to the hospital’.
The witness also spoke of another incident in May 1998 when three young men were beaten ‘bloody’. As alleged in the indictment, the victims were two Roma and a Serb. The witness said he didn’t know their ethnic background but recalled they spoke Albanian. Many KLA soldiers took part in the beating, including Lahi and Nazmi Brahimaj and the commander of the Black Eagles special unit, Idriz Balaj. As the witness explained, the Brahimaj bothers beat the youths with sticks. The youths wet their pants, cried out and called for their mothers. Balaj then approached one of them and cut off his ear. Balaj ordered his men to ‘arrange the papers for Drenica’, the witness recounted. This was a euphemism for execution. The three victims were then taken away and he never saw them again, the witness said.
The incident with the three detained youths was described in almost identical terms in the indictment. The prosecution alleges this happened in Ramush Haradinaj’s presence. The witness said that in his statement to the OTP investigators but didn’t confirm it in court, saying, ‘I don’t know why I said it earlier’. In court, the witness claimed that Haradinaj came several times to the ‘staff in Jablanica’ and that he ‘must have known what was going on there’. The witness insisted Haradinaj was in Jablanica when Skender Kuqi was murdered but couldn’t confirm if Haradinaj saw the beating.
This prompted Haradinaj’s defense lawyer Ben Emmerson to conclude that the defense ‘does not have a dog in this fight’: they didn’t intend to contest the witness’s evidence. Emmerson didn’t cross-examine the witness. In the closing argument, Emmerson said that Witness 80 didn’t accuse Haradinaj of anything. As the defense argued, when the witness said the accused was present in the ‘staff in Jablanica’ he meant Lahi Brahimaj’s house, which was several kilometers away from the prison. Brahimaj’s and Balaj’s defense counsels were much harsher with the witness, calling him a ‘liar, fraud and smuggler’. In the cross-examination, at least in the parts that have been released to the public, the defense lawyers didn’t ask about the events in Jablanica, but focused their efforts on discrediting the witness as much as possible.
Brahimaj’s defense counsel Harvey accused the witness that in the 1980s he was ‘smuggling arms’ and after the war was fired for threatening his superior with a weapon. The witness claimed he didn’t smuggle arms but distributed them to Kosovo Albanians in preparation for the war with Serbs. Also, the witness said he was able to refute all allegations made by his former employer in a court of law. The defense counsel then alleged that the witness socialized with Lahi Brahimaj after the war; he has a smile on his face on a photograph with Brahimaj taken in Tirana. The witness replied that he was there under duress; ‘you can smile even when you’re under pressure’, he said.
In an bid to show the witness was prone to lying, Balaj’s defense lawyer Guy-Smith recalled the witness’s statement to the OTP investigators from 2010, when the witness said that in 1998 he would meet ‘every Friday’ the president of the Democratic League of Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova, who went on to become the informal Kosovo president. The witness first replied that he didn’t actually meet Rugova ‘every Friday’. When that part of his statement was shown to him, the witness changed his story, saying he did meet with Rugova every Friday. The defense counsel put it to the witness that ‘a colleague and fellow traveler’ who was with the witness in Jablanica gave a completely different account of events before the court. This part of the cross-examination remained redacted.
The testimony of Witness 80 was reminiscent of the evidence of a number of previous prosecution witnesses who described the involvement of the accused in the crimes in the Jablanica prison camp. In the examination-in chief, Witness 80 confirmed some and denied other claims he had given previously to the OTP investigators. The defense lawyers then did their best to discredit the witness in a harsh cross-examination.
Former commander of the Dukagjin Operational Zone Ramush Haradinaj and his fellow fighter Idriz Balaj were acquitted in April 2008 of charges related to the crimes against Albanians, Serbs and Roma in that part of Kosovo in 1998. Lahi Brahimaj was sentenced to six years for crimes in Jablanica. The Appeals Chamber ordered a re-trial on six counts in the indictment pertaining to the beatings and murder of prisoners in the Jablanica prison camp. The Appeals Chamber ruled that the trial had ended before all prosecution witnesses were examined. After the parties presented their closing arguments last week, Judge Moloto said the judges would indicate forthwith when the judgment would be handed down.
- Case : Haradinaj et al.
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- 2012-11-09 HARADINAJ, BALAJ AND BRAHIMAJ WILL HEAR NEW JUDGMENT ON 29 NOVEMBER 2012
- 2012-11-28 SERBIAN PROSECUTOR’S ALLEGATIONS ‘SURPRISE’ OTP IN THE HAGUE
- 2012-11-29 HARADINAJ AND BALAJ ACQUITTED AGAIN, NO NEW SENTENCE FOR BRAHIMAJ