The prosecution claims it has proven beyond reasonable doubt the responsibility of the three former members of the KLA for the crimes against prisoners in the KLA prison camp in Jablanica, calling for ‘at least 20 years in prison’ for them. Ramush Haradinaj’s defense counsel dismissed those arguments, and claimed the prosecution ‘did a sloppy job’ by using ‘sleazy witnesses’ planted by the Serbian State Security Service

Paul Rogers, prosecutor at the Haradinaj, Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj trialPaul Rogers, prosecutor at the Haradinaj, Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj trial

Prosecutor Paul Rogers claims that in the course of the re-trial of the former three KLA commanders he was able to do what the prosecution team failed at their first trial: prove that Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj were responsible for crimes against Albanian, Serb and Roma civilians and that Lahi Brahimaj’s responsibility was much more extensive than the Trial Chamber found in its judgment, which sentenced Brahimaj to six years. The former KLA commanders were retried on six counts in the indictment for crimes in the KLA prison camp in Jablanica, in line with the Appeals Chamber’s finding that not all relevant witnesses had been examined at trial.

The re-trial started in August 2011, and today the prosecution presented its closing argument. As the prosecution noted, it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that alleged spies and collaborators of the Serb authorities were detained, beaten up and killed in Jablanica in the spring and summer of 1998 and that the three accused were responsible for those crimes. The prosecution invoked the testimony of various witnesses who had been in Jablanica either as prisoners or as KLA soldiers. The witnesses said in their evidence that civilians were held in the prison camp ‘like animals’ in inhumane conditions and were beaten up. Some detainees died of their injuries while others were taken to other locations and executed. In the prosecution’s view, the crimes in Jablanica were tantamount to a ‘brutal elimination’ of the enemies or alleged enemies of the KLA, committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at establishing control over Western Kosovo – also known as Dukagjin – through a campaign of terror and intimidation.

The ‘key person in the abuse’ of prisoners in Jablanica was the camp commander, Lahi Brahimaj, the prosecution claimed. Brahimaj ordered and personally took part in the heavy beating of prisoners. Brahimaj also issued the orders to ‘take [some prisoners] to Drenica’; this was a euphemism for their execution. The prosecution contends there is evidence that Idriz Balaj, who commanded a special unit, the Black Eagles, came to Jablanica and took part in the abuse and mutilation of prisoners. The commander of the Dukagjin Operational Zone, Ramush Haradinaj, also visited the prison camp. Instead of preventing the crimes, he ‘encouraged and supported’ the perpetrators, the prosecution argued.

This leads the prosecution to claim that the only adequate punishment for each of the accused, in light of the gravity of the crimes and their role in them, is ‘at least 20 years in prison’.

Haradinaj’s defense counsel Ben Emmerson dismissed the claims that his client was responsible for war crimes. As Emmerson said, the indictment was issued on the basis of false evidence provided by the Serbian State Security Service. The intent was to leave Kosovo without the services of its ‘democratically elected prime minister’ and ‘its most efficient political leader’. Emmerson indirectly blamed the former chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte for the indictment. She decided to indict Haradinaj although her colleagues had been telling her there was no sufficient evidence against him. In his closing argument, Emmerson insisted several times that prosecutor Rogers had to be held responsible for the purportedly false evidence given by the witnesses. Emmerson accused Rogers of ‘sloppiness’, adding that that the prosecution’s closing argument sounded as if it had been put together by ‘a young, inexperienced trainee’.

The defense claims there is no evidence that Haradinaj is responsible for the crimes listed in the indictment. He never actually visited the Jablanica prisoner camp in 1998, the defense claims. The Tribunal indicted an ‘honorable man’, who would never just stand there and watch the gravest crimes being committed in front of him, the defense counsel said. In the closing argument, Haradinaj was described as a dedicated fighter for Kosovo’s liberation and for the defense of civilians against the Serbian army and police. Haradinaj was in fact unable to visit Jablanica at all because of his involvement in combat, the defense claimed.

Haradinaj’s defense lawyer argues that during the ‘most comprehensive trial in the history of international law that has been going on for seven years’ the court heard ‘hopeless and sleazy witnesses’. In fact, the Serbian secret service ‘planted’ the witnesses, tricking the prosecution. ‘The truth will flare in the judgment and it will light up each and every dark corner of the prosecution’s case and Haradinaj will be acquitted’, the defense lawyer concluded confidently. Haradinaj’s defense will complete its closing argument tomorrow.