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War crimes tribunal acquits former Kosovo Liberation Army commander

The Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Thursday acquitted [press release] former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders Ramush Haradinaj [JURIST op-ed], Idriz Balaj, and Laji Brahimaj of all charges. Haradinaj was a commander of the KLA in the Dukagjin area of Western Kosovo; Balaj, a commander of a special operations unit known as the Black Eagles; and Brahimaj was Deputy Commander of the Dukagjin Operative Zone. In April 2008, the Trial Chamber originally acquitted Haradinaj [JURIST report] of all charges, as was Balaj, but Brahimaj was convicted of mistreating a detainee and ordering the mistreatment of another, and was sentenced to six years in jail. However, in July 2010, the ICTY Appeals Chamber reversed the judgments [JURIST report], finding that the Trial Chamber had failed to take sufficient steps to counter witness intimidation. The ICTY began the retrial [JURIST report] in August 2011, with the prosecutor seeking a 20-year sentence [JURIST report] for Haradinaj. However, the Trial Chamber rendered judgment in favor of the defendants, ordering for their immediate release.

Since its establishment in 1993, the ICTY has indicted 161 people for violations of humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001; of those indicted, the trials of 128 have concluded, with proceedings for 33 currently ongoing. Last Friday, the ICTY overturned the convictions [JURIST report] of two Croat generals for crimes against humanity and war crimes against Serb civilians committed during a 1995 military blitz. Ex-Yugoslav army chief Momcilo Perisic began his appeal [JURIST report] before the ICTY last October in an attempt to overturn his conviction [JURIST report] on crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. Earlier that October, the ICTY opened the trial of Goran Hadzic [JURIST report], the last suspect remaining to be tried by the court.

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