In his testimony at the trial of the three men charged with the crimes in the Lapusnik camp, Shukri Buja tries desperately to explain how he could make so many “mistakes” in his previous interviews with the OTP investigators

At the end of an interview with the OTP investigators in April 2003 that lasted several hours, a former KLA commander Shukri Buja, said that the summons by the prosecution to appear as a witness against his former fellow fighters “put him in a difficult position”, but that he was nevertheless “ready to come and testify”. Buja then changed his mind and decided not to testify. Nevertheless he then arrived in The Hague after the Chamber issued him a subpoena.

During the interview with Oli Lahtinen, leader of the OTP team investigating the Lapusnik camp, Commander Buja allegedly – as the prosecutor reminded him during his examination – admitted he had been afraid. In the coutroom today he explained that he had been afraid “of being misunderstood by his compatriots.”

Be that as it may, Shukri Buja clearly stated at the very beginning of his testimony that he did not consider the statement he gave to the investigators in 2003 to be valid since he had not been given the opportunity to “revise it and correct the mistakes”. As his answers in the courtroom were, as the prosecutor said, in stark contradiction with what he had said in his previous interviews, the Chamber allowed the prosecution to “refresh the memory” of its unwilling witness and confront him with the video tape of the interview conducted in April 2003. This decision came after a whole day of trial in closed session.

During that interview, as it turned out, Buja drew a detailed map of ‘points’ or units of the KLA that were under the command of the Klecka headquarters in the spring and summer of 1998. The first accused Fatmir Limaj was allegedly “stationed” there. Buja said in the interview that Limaj’s task at the time was the “coordination with the KLA Main Staff” while his own task was the “coordination with Limaj”. He said quite clearly in the interview that the chain of command in that area went “from the Main Staff, through Limaj, to the ‘point’ in Krajmirovac,” where he and his deputy Ramiz Qeriqi a/k/a Luan were based. Qeriqi testified at the trial of Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu and Haradin Bala before Buja.

Prosecutor Alex Witing would show the witness a part of the interview and then would go through that part sentence by sentence, asking the witness to either confirm it or to “explain how he could have made such a mistake and say what he said.”

Buja first said that he had made mistakes because he had been influenced by the “strong propaganda campaign” after the war in which “some commanders exaggerated and some played down the chain of command in the KLA”…“as it fit their political ambitions”. He explained some of his previous statements by the fact that he “had been studying journalism at the time.” He claimed that he had made a mistake when he had presented “words coming from the Main Staff as orders”, noting that he, Limaj and other KLA commanders had been “consulting each other”, not “carrying out orders.” Previously Buja said that Limaj had been in charge of coordinating his contacts with the Main Staff, but now he explains that it referred to the “coordination of his trip” from the point in Krajmirovac, through the Klecka headquarters to the Main Staff in Drenica. Thus he turned Limaj into a “tourist agent” or a “war-time tourist guide”.

Shukri Buja protested several times about the way his questioning was proceeding, asking the Chamber to “stop this confrontation with a statement [he] did not consider valid.” The judges, however, refrained from intervening, letting the prosecutor to “refresh the memory” of its unwilling witness. The procedure will continue tomorrow.