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Terrorism & Security

Serbs frustrated, Kosovars elated as former Kosovo PM acquitted of war crimes

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia acquitted Ramush Haradinaj of six counts of crimes involving the murder and torture of Serbs and non-Albanians in the '90s.

By Staff writer / November 29, 2012

Supporters of former Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj celebrated after the verdict at the courtroom of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague was announced on a giant screen in Pristina, Kosovo, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.

Visar Kryeziu/AP

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Kosovars celebrated and Serbian media and officials slammed a decision today by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal at The Hague to acquit former Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj of war crimes committed during the 1990s.

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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Agence France-Presse reports that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Mr. Haradinaj and his lieutenant Idriz Balaj of six counts of crimes involving the murder and torture of Serbs and non-Albanians during the war in the Balkans in 1998 and 1999. Another officer, Lahi Brahimaj, was acquitted of four similar counts. The court, presided over by Judge Bakone Justice Moloto, said that despite the accusations, prosecutors failed to prove that the three men were involved in a "joint criminal enterprise" to ethnically cleanse Serbs.

In his ruling, the judge singled out the prosecutors' witnesses as unreliable.

Moloto said that one witness may not have been in the Jablanica detention camp where alleged abuses took place and "may have told what he heard from others."

"There is no credible evidence that Haradinaj was even aware of the crimes committed at Jablanica," Moloto said.

Reuters reports that the acquittal was met with cheers in the courtroom and fireworks in Kosovo, where Haradinaj is considered a hero and served as prime minister for several months in 2005 before being charged by the ICTY, prompting him to step down to deal with the court case. Reuters notes that many in Kosovo expect him to reenter the government as part of Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's coalition. Mr. Thaci, who called the verdict "the strongest evidence that the Kosovo Liberation Army fought a just war for freedom and never committed the crimes of which we were unfairly accused," is, like Haradinaj, a former Kosovar military commander.

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