Ramush Haradinaj’s defense counsel argues that Haradinaj was innocent, invoking the testimony of witnesses who testified that Haradinaj didn’t really have command powers and wasn’t responsible for crimes. Haradinaj’s defense also quoted former representatives of the international administration in Kosovo who all spoke of Haradinaj as a ‘friend’, a ‘man of vision’ and ‘true fighter for human rights’

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

The prosecution claimed that Haradinaj ‘encouraged and supported’ the crimes against prisoners detained in the KLA prison camp in Jablanica. As Haradinaj’s defense counsel Emmerson continued his closing argument, he countered the allegation by pointing to the evidence that, in his view, showed the accused didn’t have command powers over the Jablanica prison camp and was in fact never there. Emmerson contends that the prosecution didn’t present any valid evidence against Haradinaj and stressed that a ‘man has to admire the cleverness of the prosecution’ that constructed a theory whose foundations ‘lie in sand’.

The defense counsel contends there is no evidence that Haradinaj was the commander of the Dukagjin Operational Zone in the true meaning of the word. In 1998, there was no vertical military structure in the KLA, only a horizontal one. In other words, there were a number of commands in the Dukagjin area. Haradinaj’s HQ was located in Glodjani, Lahi Brahimaj’s in Jablanica, while Tahir Zemaj’s HQ was located in Papracani. Those HQs functioned on the principle of cooperation rather than subordination. The defense didn’t deny that Haradinaj was appointed commander of the entire Operational Zone on 23 June 1998, but that didn’t change anything in the way the KLA functioned in the area. After his appointment, Jablanica nominally came under Haradinaj’s jurisdiction, but he had no de facto authority over the HQ which was led by Lahi Brahimaj, the defense argued. The defense claims that the prosecution “sloppily cobbled together’ the theory of Haradinaj’s responsibility, basing it only on the fact that due to his military achievements Haradinaj enjoyed the confidence in the KLA.

Furthermore, Emmerson contends there is no physical evidence or testimony showing that Ramush Haradinaj visited the prison in Jablanica in 1998. There is evidence that Haradinaj was told that a Kosovo Albanian by the name of Skender Kuqi was tortured in the prison. Kuqi was suspected of collaborating with the Serbian forces. There is also evidence that the protected witness who testified under the pseudonym 3 was taken to Haradinaj’s HQ in Glodjani after he was beaten up in Jablanica. The defense reminded the court of the evidence that Haradinaj demanded Kuqi’s release and guaranteed Witness 3 safety, offering him to stay overnight and then be escorted to his house. ‘When Haradinaj appeared on the scene, the treatment of prisoners improved’, Emmerson concluded. This, in Emmerson’s view, ran counter to the claim that his client was responsible for the crimes.

Concluding his closing argument, Emmerson said that Haradinaj’s arrest and his seven-year absence from politics was a ‘tragedy for Kosovo’. As prime minister, Haradinaj ‘protected all the ethnic minorities’. He would have been able to eradicate corruption and turn Kosovo into a ‘fully-fledged member of the international community’. Emmerson invoked the words of former chief of the UN administration in Kosovo Soren Jessen Petersen, who called Haradinaj a ‘trustworthy friend’. Former KFOR chief Klaus Reinhardt described Haradinaj as a ‘reliable and witty politician, a born leader and a man of vision’, the defense counsel recalled.

The initial plan was for the parties to finish their closing arguments today, but Emmerson didn’t leave enough time for the defense lawyers representing Haradinaj’s co-accused. The defense of the second-accused Idriz Balaj, former commander of a KLA special unit, began its closing argument at the end of the hearing today and will complete it tomorrow. The defense of the former commander of the Jablanica prisoner camp Lahi Brahimaj will be the last to address the Trial Chamber.