International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

ICTY Acquits Former Kosovo Prime Minister

This week, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia acquitted Ramush Haradinaj, former prime minister of Kosovo, and former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). He had been charged with torturing and murdering ethnic Serbs during the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict. He was charged with 6 violations of the law and customs of war.

Haradinaj was indicted in 2005, tried in 2007, and found not guilty. The Appeals Chamber quashed the acquittal and ordered a retrial, due to intimidation of witnesses. After the retrial, the Court concluded that Haradinaj was not guilty. In addition to Haradinaj, two alleged co-conspirators were also acquitted. All three men were released immediately this week. When he arrived in Kosovo, Haradinaj told reporters, “I’m happy that international justice has confirmed that our road to freedom was clean and just.” Haradinaj plans to return to politics in Kosovo.

spokesman for the Serbian government said that the verdict was a blow to international justice and would present a serious obstacle in the process of reconciliation. The Russian Foreign Ministrydescribed the trial as “scandalous” and accused the ICTY of engaging in “selective justice.”Amnesty International asked, ”Is anybody ever going to be brought to justice?”

In response to the acquittal, Haradiaj’s lawyer demanded a public apology from the prosecutor for serving “the political interests of the extreme nationalists in Serbia, by depriving Kosovo of its most effective political leader during this crucial period of transition to independence.” 

Serbian nationalists burned the EU flag this week and demanded justice for the war crimes committed during the 1990s. 

Prosecutors in international courts have a serious responsibility to only pursue charges that they believe they can prove. Although bringing a war criminal to justice can help the victims, when a war criminal is acquitted, tensions are exacerbated and the situation becomes worse than it would have been if the international court had never gotten involved in the first place.

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One response to “ICTY Acquits Former Kosovo Prime Minister

  1. mfcarpenter December 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I think this is a really good point. We haven’t spent much time discussing how detrimental it could be for a community when someone charged with international crimes is acquitted. International tribunals are constrained by many jurisdictional obstacles and political boundaries, and if there is not enough evidence to convict someone of crimes – what does that mean for international justice? I suppose that justice cannot always play out to be on the side of good — after all, this happens domestically also. If someone who committed a crime is found Not Guilty, then they can just walk free. But this doesn’t mean that the whole system is futile – it just means the consequences are much higher on and international scale. I think this subject would be a great research project. Thanks for sharing!

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