Thursday, April 3, 2008

ICTY: Trial Chamber Judgment in the Case Against Haradinaj, Balaj, and Brahimaj

Today, the ICTY Trial Chamber rendered its judgment in the case (No. IT-04-84) against Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj, and Lahi Brahimaj, former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The defendants were charged (fourth amended indictment here) with thirty-seven counts of crimes against humanity (persecution, including harassment, torture, deportation or forcible transfer of civilians, murder, and rape) and war crimes (cruel treatment, torture, rape, and murder) relating to their alleged joint criminal enterprise to, among other things, unlawfully remove and mistreat Serbs living in northwestern Kosovo from March through September 1998. The trial began on March 5, 2007; closing arguments were given from January 21-23, 2008. The defendants chose not to present any evidence.

In today's decision (summary here; press release here; New York Times story here; judgment not yet available online), the Trial Chamber acquitted Haradinaj and Balaj of all charges and convicted Brahimaj of two counts of war crimes (cruel treatment and torture). He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Regarding the acquittal of the defendants on the charges of crimes against humanity, the Trial Chamber found that the evidence “did not always allow the Chamber to conclude whether a crime was committed or whether the KLA was involved as alleged.” The judges also noted that the “evidence on some of the other counts indicates that the victims may have been targeted primarily for reasons pertaining to them individually rather than as members of the targeted civilian population.” With regard to some of the counts, the Chamber concluded, as well, that the alleged acts were “not on a scale of frequency that would allow for a conclusion that there was an attack against a civilian population.” Regarding the charges of war crimes, the Trial Chamber found that there was only sufficient evidence to convict Brahimaj on two of the counts in the indictment.