War crimes indictee Haradinaj urges stability in Kosovo

26/02/2007

Before heading off Monday to stand trial at The Hague, former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj met last week with Kosovo's political leaders and the UNMIK chief.

By Bekim Greicevci for Southeast European Times in Pristina – 26/02/07

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(From left) Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku, former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and President Fatmir Sejdiu meet in Pristina on Friday (February 23rd). [Laura Hasani]

Former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj expressed confidence that justice will prevail in his trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Hague, that is due to start on March 5th.

"I have to go there again with full confidence that the justice will prevail. I am going to the Hague to tell the truth and nothing more," Haradinaj said on Friday (February 23rd), after meetings with Kosovo's political leaders and UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker.

President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Ceku thanked Haradinaj for his support of the political process and for the province's coalition government. Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) has been part of the coalition government since December 2004.

"We believe he will establish his innocence and return [to Kosovo] in a short time", Sejdiu said after Friday's meeting. "I am confident he will clear himself and the purity of our war for freedom. We will stand by him," Ceku said.

A group has launched a public campaign in support of Haradinaj. "With Ramush", reads one of the billboard messages that went up on Sunday morning in the centre of Pristina.

Most of Haradinaj's comments at the joint press conference with Sejdiu and Ceku were about Kosovo's status process and its future. He said that a decision on independence will come soon and that UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari's proposal paves the way for that to happen. He urged the public to work for a stable and secure Kosovo. "People can destroy things very easily but that is not fair. Let's make Kosovo a state to take pride in," Haradinaj said.

He was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) during the armed conflict with Serb forces in 1998-1999. Three months after becoming the head of Kosovo government, he was indicted on March 8th, 2005, for crimes against Serbs, Romas and Albanians who were allegedly accused of collaborating with former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s government.

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Haradinaj resigned immediately and travelled voluntarily to The Hague. Two months later he was granted provisional release pending trial. The former guerrilla commander also was granted limited public political activity as he is considered a stabilising force in the province.

UN chief war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte tried to block Haradinaj's request to meet with UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker, but the ICTY Trial Chamber rejected her proposal.

Serbian President Boris Tadic issued a statement criticising Ruecker for agreeing to meet Haradinaj. He announced that he would notify UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of Ruecker's actions.

Two Kosovo Albanians, members of UCK, were acquitted of all charges and a third was sentenced to 13 years of in prison by the ICTY in November 2005. Haradinaj and two co-defendants are the last Kosovo Albanian group to be tried at The Hague.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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