Ramush Haradinaj

01.05.2016 ( Last modified: 10.05.2017 )
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Ramush Haradinaj was born on 3 July 1968 in Kosovo. In 1989, using a false name, he emigrated to Switzerland where he became an active member of the nationalist People’s Movement of Kosovo, the future Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

In 1996, he reportedly set up KLA bases in the cities of Kukes and Tropoje, in northern Albania, and organised arms smuggling into Kosovo. In 1997, he came back to his country and in March 1998 he became Commander of the KLA for western Kosovo.

He was reported to be one of the KLA “Black Eagles” special unit founder, which was suspected of torture and murder of Serbs and Kosovar Albanian civilians accused of collaborating with the Serbs.

On 24 March 1998, the KLA started a systematic campaign aimed at pushing Serbs, Roma and Albanians out of the Dukagjin area. The KLA forces, allegedly under direct command of Haradinaj, harassed, beat, expelled, abducted, detained, and tortured Serbian and Roma civilians from villages located in the region of Glodjane. During the campaign 25 Serbian policemen were targeted and more than 60 Serbian and Albanian civilians were abducted and subsequently executed between March and September 1998.

On 12 September 1998, the Serbian forensic police discovered the remains of dozens of victims, leading to public accusation of war crimes against Haradinaj and his forces.

In 2000, Haradinaj founded the party of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and was Prime Minister of Kosovo between December 2004 and March 2005.

legal procedure

On 4 March 2005 the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted Haradinaj on the ground of his individual and hierarchical responsibility for the actions committed by KLA forces under his command between March and September 1998. On 8 March 2005, Haradinaj resigned from Prime Minister of Kosovo and voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY.

He was charged with persecution, inhumane acts, deportation, imprisonment, murder and rape as crimes against humanity and with cruel treatment, murder and rape as violations of the laws and customs of war.

On 14 March 2005, Haradinaj pleaded not guilty. On 7 June 7 2005, he was granted provisional release pending the beginning of the trial.

The trial against Haradinaj and his two co-defendants Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj began on 5 March 2007.

All the way through the trial, the prosecutor denounced pressures and intimidations upon prosecution witnesses, two of whom expressly refused to appear before the Tribunal for fear of persecution while a third one had died in a suspect car accident.

On 21 January 2008 the prosecutor asked for 25 years’ imprisonment for each of the three accused.

On 3 April 2008, the Trial Chamber, despite establishing that war crimes had been committed by KLA forces, didn’t found sufficient evidence to convict the accused in a joint criminal enterprise. Haradinaj and Balaj were thus acquitted of all charges, while Brahimaj was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for cruel treatment and torture of two persons at the Jablanica headquarters of the KLA.

On 2 May 2008, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY lodged an appeal against the acquittal, on the ground that the prosecution had not been allowed to present enough witnesses during the first trial.

On 19 July 2010, the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY ordered the partial re-trial of Haradinaj, Balaj. and Brahimaj’s. The judges maintained that the Trial Chamber had erred in refusing to grant the Prosecutor additional time to secure the testimony of presumably crucial witnesses.

Haradinaj was arrested again on 21 July 2010 and transferred to The Hague. Re-trial began on 18 August 2011. The Prosecutor requested a punishment of 20 years of imprisonment.

On 29 November 2012, Trial Chamber II of the ICTY acquitted Haradinaj and his two co-defendants Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj of all charges for lack of evidence. The Chamber also established that Haradinaj had acted to prevent criminal behaviour where he could.

In June 2015 Haradinaj was arrested by Slovenian police but was released after two days following diplomatic pressure.

On 5 January 2017 Haradinaj was arrested on a Serbian international arrest warrant by French border police upon his arrival at Basel-Mulhouse airport. He was released on 12 January pending decision on his extradition to Serbia and has been placed under judicial supervision while his case is being reviewed.



Ramush Haradinaj was Prime Minister of Kosovo at the time of his commitment for trial. He was the first high ranking Kosovar politician in office to be indicted by the ICTY. He is still leader of the party of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK).



The conflict in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1999, shocked international public opinion because of the abuses revealed by the press, which were committed by all parties to the conflict (massacres, forced displacements of population, concentration camps …). The conflict is considered to consist of several separate conflicts, which were ethnic in nature – the war in Slovenia (1991), the war in Croatia (1991-1995), the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) and the war Kosovo (1998-1999), which also involved the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

The conflicts accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, when the constituent republics declared their independence. The wars mostly ended after peace accords were signed, and new republics were given full international recognition of their statehood.

In order to restore peace and security in the region, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of UN Charter, created on 25 May 1993, by Resolution 827, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was determined that pursuant to numerous reports of, among other, mass killings, systematic detention, rapes, practice of “ethnic cleansing”, transfers, etc., these acts constituted a threat to international peace and security, necessitating a reaction by Security Council. As the Tribunal was created during the ongoing conflict, the Security Council expressed its hopes that ICTY would contribute to halting violations in the region. Its headquarters are in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law – grave breaches of Geneva Conventions, violations of laws and customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity – allegedly committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991, (no end date was specified). Since its creation, the ICTY has indicted more than 160 people, including heads of states and government members.

The Tribunal’s mandate was originally meant to expire on 31 December 2009, but the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the Court with several judges, including permanent judges, so that the ongoing trials can be completed. According to the “ICTY Completion Strategy Report” from 18 May 2011, all trials were supposed to be completed by the end of 2012, and all the appeals by the end of 2015. The exceptions were cases of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

The Security Council adopted resolution 1966 on 22 December 2010, establishing International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The ICTY residual mechanism began functioning on 1 July 2013.

The Tribunal was called to finish its work by the end of 2014, in order to prepare closure and transfer of cases to the Residual Mechanism. The Mechanism is a small and temporary body, which plays important role in ensuring that the completion strategy of ICTY does not result in impunity of fugitives and in injustice. It is conducting all outstanding first instance trials, including those of Karadzic, Mladic and Hadzic. It is also to complete all appeals proceedings that were filed before 1 July 2013.

The ICTY is not the only court with jurisdiction to try alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal has concurrent jurisdiction with national courts. However, it takes precedence over them and may require the referral from the national court at any stage of the proceedings (Article 9 of the ICTY Statute). The Statute does not elaborate how the primacy is to be exercised, but it was asserted by the judges of the ICTY in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The primacy can be asserted in three cases: when an international crime is intentionally or unwittingly prosecuted before national court as an “ordinary criminal offence”, when a national court is unreliable, or when the case is closely related, or may be relevant to other cases being tried by the ICTY.


National courts also have jurisdiction to prosecute alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

In the former Yugoslavia, the trials of those accused of war crimes have been opened by the courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Section for War Crimes was set up in the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Special Chamber for War Crimes has jurisdiction to prosecute the most serious alleged war crimes committed in Bosnia, and was created to relieve the ICTY, so that it can focus on criminals of high rank. Its establishment was also considered necessary for effective war crimes prosecution in Bosnia. The opening of the Special Chamber was on 9 March 2005.

Additionally, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 10 June 1999, UN administration was created in Kosovo. Consequently, in 2000 “Regulation 64” Panels in Courts of Kosovo were created, which are mixed chambers at the local courts. They have two international judges and one national. These panels work in collaboration with the ICTY. They have jurisdiction over those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They focus on prosecuting lower ranking offenders.

In Serbia, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor was established on 1 July 2003. It was created to detect and prosecute perpetrators of criminal offenses against humanity and international law, and offences recognised by the ICTY Statute, regardless of the nationality, citizenship, race or religion of the perpetrator and the victim, as long as the acts were committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991. Its seat is in Belgrade, Serbia.

Other relevant national jurisdictions are under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states with a specific legal basis, to try perpetrators of serious crimes regardless of their nationality or that of the victims and regardless of where the crime was committed.