Hague Tribunal “responsible for deaths of witnesses”

BELGRADE -- War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević has accused the Hague Tribunal of being responsible for the death of 19 witnesses in the case against Ramush Haradinaj.

Vladimir Vukčević (FoNet, file)
Vladimir Vukčević (FoNet, file)

The Tribunal will deliver its verdict in the case against the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander on Thursday.

Vukčević told Belgrade-based tabloid Informer that the tragic fate of the witnesses was a result of “incompetence” of The Hague officials “who did their job sloppily”.

The war crimes prosecutor assessed that the indictment against Haradinaj was “pretty thin” despite the fact that Serbia had done everything to help the Hague Tribunal.

“I am aware that evidence against him is thin, although we tried really hard to assist the Hague Tribunal. However, they did a pretty sloppy and unprofessional job in this case,” he was quoted as saying.

Vukčević pointed out that the Tribunal had been particularly careless in their work with the witnesses.

“Witnesses are sensitive, especially when it comes to war crimes. They are supposed to talk about crimes that happened 20 years ago and those events are extremely stressful for them. They need to relive all those horrific things they experienced. An experienced prosecutor and a judge need to keep that in mind when they question those people. Regardless of that, The Hague appointed some incompetent clerks who ruined everything,” the prosecutor stressed.

He noted that 19 potential witnesses in the case against Haradinaj had been killed.

“Haradinaj’s method is well-known and it is a method of every mafia. First we have warnings, then a bribery attempt, then intimidation and in the end, murder. In this case we had murders, which made other witnesses withdraw,” Vukčević said.

“Haradinaj knew exactly who could harm him. As soon as he hears that The Hague is interested in any of them, he threatens them to keep quiet. And these people from The Hague did all this non-stop,” he noted, adding that the Hague Tribunal did not appoint adequate investigators.

“They did not know the language or mentality of the witnesses, they did not know how to approach the people. And when a murder of a witness happens, The Hague says that they were not under their protection,” the Serbian prosecutor explained.

Commenting on the Operation Storm, Vukčević said that the most important thing for Serbia was to rule that the joint criminal enterprise existed in the new proceeding.

“There is a tape on which (then Croatian President) Franjo Tuđman is saying: ‘Now is our chance to hit the Serbs so hard that they will disappear from these parts’. There is an order of (General Ante) Gotovina from August 2, 1995 in which he demanded that four towns in Krajina be shelled. The fact is that more than 900 grenades fell on Knin during a day and a half,” he added.

When asked whether it was normal that Serb Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Šešelj had been on trial for ten years and that the Tribunal still had not delivered a verdict, Vukčević said that “all Hague trials are abnormal”.