The appeals chamber at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague ruled on Tuesday that the deputy leader of the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation, Nasim Haradinaj, must remain in custody.
The appeals judges said in their decision that they were “satisfied that, at the time of the review decision, grounds for continued detention still exist”.
Haradinaj and the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation’s leader, Hysni Gucati, are charged with obstructing justice and intimidating witnesses after batches of confidential case files from the Specialist Chambers were leaked to them, and both men urged media in Kosovo to publish the material.
The appeals judges upheld a decision by a pre-trial judge who rejected Haradinaj’s request to be freed from detention due to the “risk of flight” and “grounds to believe that the progress of proceedings may be obstructed [by Haradinaj] and further crimes committed”.
The judges noted that Haradinaj attempted to escape “by vehicle and on foot” when officers were trying to arrest him in Kosovo’s capital Pristina in September 2020.
They also said that he could “put at risk (potential) witnesses through the disclosure of confidential and non-public information”.
The appeals chamber dismissed Haradinaj’s challenges to the fairness of the proceedings, insisting that no proof has been brought forward to support the “allegation of prejudice”.
The indictment alleges that Gucati and Haradinaj “revealed, without authorisation” lawfully protected information, and that they identified “details of certain (potential) witnesses”. Witness protection is a key issue for the Hague court after serious problems in previous trials of KLA ex-guerrillas.
In January, Haradinaj boycotted a pre-trial hearing, which led to the pre-trial judge entering a not-guilty plea on his behalf. Gucati pleaded not guilty in December.
The Specialist Chambers were set up to try former KLA guerrillas for crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.
The so-called ‘special court’, widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule, was set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies.
Those awaiting trial for wartime crimes include Kosovo’s former President Hashim Thaci and former Democratic Party of Kosovo leader Kadri Veseli alongside two other guerrillas turned politicians, Jakup Krasniqi and Rexhep Selimi. They have all pleaded not guilty.