KLA War Veterans’ Organisation’s deputy leader Nasim Haradinaj appeared at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on Tuesday after being transferred from Pristina, where he was detained during a raid on the organisation’s headquarters.
Haradinaj was arrested on Friday for allegedly obstructing justice and intimidating witnesses in cases at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which was set up to try former KLA fighters for wartime and post-war crimes from 1998 to 2000, including murder, torture and illegal detentions.
The arrest warrant said Haradinaj was suspected of distributing or allowing media access to confidential leaked documents on three separate occasions in September.
Three batches of documents from cases at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers have allegedly been anonymously delivered to the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation, which has urged Kosovo media to publish them, although without naming witnesses. No Kosovo media outlet has done so, however.
Judge Nicolas Guillou said that Tuesday’s hearing was “not a trial, the suspect has not been charged yet and no indictment has been filed by the prosecution”.
The defence said that a preliminary motion to release Haradinaj has been filed.
His defence lawyer claimed that the Specialist Chambers do not have jurisdiction in the case because they are a war crimes tribunal. But the prosecution argued that the Kosovo laws that established the court give it the jurisdiction.
The judge ordered the prosecution to respond to the defence’s motion by Friday.
Haradinaj told the court that he does not “accept [his] arrest and transfer” because he does not recognise the Specialist Chambers.
He was detained on Friday alongside the leader of the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation, Hysni Gucati, who will also appear in court in The Hague on Thursday.
Witness protection is one of the key issues facing the Kosovo Specialist Chambers after witnesses were intimidated in previous Kosovo war-related trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and at domestic courts in Kosovo.
The Specialist Chambers are part of Kosovo’s justice system but are located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.
They were set up under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, who feared that Kosovo’s justice system was not robust enough to try KLA cases and protect witnesses from interference.
But the so-called ‘special court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.
Tuesday’s hearing was the second to be held at the Specialist Chambers, after former KLA officer Salih Mustafa appeared in court on Monday.
Mustafa is charged with the arbitrary detention, cruel treatment torture and murder of civilian prisoners during the Kosovo war in April 1999.
The indictment alleges that he was part of a joint criminal enterprise with other KLA soldiers, police and guards, which had a “shared common purpose to interrogate and mistreat detainees”.
Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci, who was the KLA’s political chief, is also the subject of an as yet unconfirmed indictment for wartime crimes.
Thaci was quizzed by prosecutors for four days in The Hague in July. He has denied any wrongdoing.