14 December 2007 A former prime minister of Kosovo and a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the conflict in the province, each facing trial at the United Nations war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the worst crimes of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, have been granted temporary release from jail during the court’s annual winter recess.Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sitting in The Hague, ordered today that Ramush Haradinaj and Lahi Brahimaj be provisionally released from 21 December, under the condition they return to the Tribunal’s custody by 4 January next year.

Mr. Haradinaj was a well-known figure with the KLA during the conflict with Serb forces in 1998-99 and later served as the leader of a minority political party and briefly as the province’s prime minister. Mr. Brahimaj was a senior KLA commander who reported directly to Mr. Haradinaj.

The indictment accuses Mr. Haradinaj of participating in a joint criminal enterprise with two others, Idriz Balaj and Mr. Brahimaj, between March and September 1998 aimed at consolidating KLA control in the Dukagjin area by attacking, persecuting and forcibly removing Serb civilians and violently suppressing “any real or perceived form of collaboration with the Serbs by Albanian or Roma civilians.”

While they may not have physically committed every crime for which they are charged, the indictment states, they are still considered criminally responsible for planning, instigating, ordering or aiding and abetting their commission.

The charges against Mr. Haradinaj include murder, rape, torture, abduction, cruel treatment, harassment and the deportation or forcible transfer of civilians. Mr. Brahimaj is accused of providing direct support to Mr. Haradinaj’s alleged criminal activities and of running a KLA detention facility in central Kosovo in which civilians were mistreated.

The trial of the three men began in March and closing arguments are expected to be delivered late next month. Mr. Balaj did not apply to the ICTY for provisional release.

Source: UN News Centre