Haradinaj walks

The Hague has acquitted former Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj of various horrible war crimes.

This is not much of a surprise. One, while the case against the KLA leadership generally is pretty strong, the case against Haradinaj personally wasn’t so much. Two, Haradinaj put up an aggressive and very competent defense. And three, various witnesses were assaulted, intimidated, or otherwise convinced to change their stories. Testifying against a popular KLA commander-turned-popular politician: not so easy.

In this context, I should probably give a link to the recent Human Rights Watch report noting that the criminal justice system in Kosovo still sucks. The report mentions intimidation of witnesses as a particular problem. Which is no surprise to anyone who’s spent much time in Kosovo.

That said, I’m not sure they would have been able to nail Haradinaj even if everyone had testified. He’s a very smart, very charming guy; he put up a very good defense; and the standard for conviction is very high. The prosecutors case consisted of a lot of “bad things happened when you were around, you were in charge, you would have to have known” type stuff… ironically, a bit similar to the way they tried to make the case against Milosevic a few years back. If Slobo had lived, he might have walked on most of his counts too.

Anyway. In the usual zero-sum way of Balkan politics, the Serbs are going nuts — all parties united; everyone agrees that this totally proves the Hague is victor’s justice — while the Albanians are dancing in the streets. Longer term… well, Haradinaj will be back in politics now. He was actually a pretty good Prime Minister during his brief term. It’s not clear how much of that was telling the international community what it wanted to hear, and how much was sincere. We may soon find out.

In other Balkan news, the Greeks vetoed Macedonia’s entry into NATO, but Croatia and Albania got in. Probably worth a post, but I have a limited quota for arguments with Greek nationalists (“yes, your country has ethnic minorities… no, really it does…”) and I’ve about used it up.

Belgium holds the line

Brief recap: about six months ago, the EU suspended candidacy negotiations with Serbia because Belgrade was refusing to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.

In particular, the Serbian government had stopped even pretending to look for accused war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. As chief Hague prosecutor Carla del Ponte put it, “I’m telling those who still wish to receive me – and fewer and fewer prime ministers and foreign ministers now find the time or interest to do so – that since last October, Belgrade has not been cooperating with the Tribunal at all. Not only has it failed to provide full cooperation – there has been no cooperation whatsoever.”

So the EU shut down candidacy negotiations. Kudos all around, right? Cooperation with the Hague was always a clear prerequisite for negotiations. The EU had made that clear, and the Serbs had agreed. No cooperation, no candidacy.

Then some EU members started getting cold feet.
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