Verdict unjust, political, say Serbian officials

BELGRADE -- Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić has said that the acquittal of Ramush Haradinaj is unjust and that it will encourage separatism.

Ivica Dačić and Tomislav Nikolić (Tanjug, file)
Ivica Dačić and Tomislav Nikolić (Tanjug, file)

He added that the not guilty verdict would also hinder attempts to establish peace in the region, annul all efforts to normalize relations between Belgrade and Priština and increase euroskepticism among the Serbian people, just like previous rulings of the Hague Tribunal.

“Unfortunately, expectations that the Hague Tribunal will release Ramush Haradinaj, who was accused of murder, cruel treatment, inhuman actions against non-Albanian, Serb and Roma civilians in the camp of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Jablanica in 1998 and violation of law and customs of war, have come true,” reads Nikolić’s statement.

“The latest decision of the Tribunal is not based on the law and justice – the main postulates on which the international court should be based. The Tribunal was apparently founded contrary to the international law and it was founded to try the Serbian people. They want to achieve certain goals that the Serbian public is well aware of,” the president stressed.

According to him, Haradinaj’s acquittal shows incompetence of the mission in Kosovo, lack of understanding of the majority population’s mentality and inability to protect 29 key witnesses.

“Nobody will be convicted of horrible crimes against Kosovo Serbs. Such verdicts encourage separatism, hinder efforts to establish peace in the region, annul efforts to normalize relations between Belgrade and Priština thus far and increase euroskepticism among the Serbian people,” he concluded.

Prime Minister Ivica Dačić has assessed that the acquittal of Haradinaj was expected and that it was “the latest in a series of political and not legal and just verdicts of the Tribunal”.

He added, however, that Serbia would continue the talks with Priština “because it is in its best interest”.

“It is in Serbia’s best interest to continue both the dialogue and the EU integrations,” the PM said and stressed that the verdict “will hinder the reconciliation process in the region, just like the verdict to the Croat generals”.

Serbian government media office head Milivoje Mihajlović told B92 that the acquittal of Ramush Haradinaj did not surprise him.

“This is a hard blow for justice and a serious obstacle to the continuation of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue,” he stressed.

According to him, the verdict will cause dissatisfaction among Kosovo Serbs, especially those who experienced the actions of Haradinaj and his Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

He added that the acquittal would disappoint all those who believed that there would be reconciliation in the region.

“It is now clear, the Hague Tribunal has made it clear to Serbia that it took one side,” Mihajlović noted.

He believes that the position of Serbs in Kosovo could deteriorate now because a position that nobody is guilty of crimes against Serbs has now been legitimized.

“The Hague has distanced itself from it and the biggest culprit for the whole story that witnesses cannot be protected is the international mission in Kosovo which has not reacted to the murder of 19 witnesses in the case against Haradinaj,” Mihajlović stressed and added that the situation was similar in other cases against KLA members.

When asked what the Serbian government would do now, he said that it would continue the dialogue with Priština.

“This is one of the challenges aimed at making Serbia give up on it and it seems to me that this is one of the goals of those who are opposed to the dialogue,” he concluded.

United Serbia (JS) leader Dragan Marković also says he was not surprised by the acquittal “because Naser Orić and Ante Gotovina and others who committed crimes against Serbs were acquitted before”. According to him, one can now expect to see Haradinaj, Gotovina and Orić as prime ministers.

“And the international community is asking us to have good neighborly relations in order to join the EU. How can we have good neighborly relations when presidents will be war criminals and there is material evidence to prove it,” he stressed.

The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has issued a release, proposing that Serbia suspends “all talks with the Hague Tribunal”.

“We strongly condemn the acquittal or Ramush Haradinaj which is, after the shameful acquittal of the Croat generals, is the second horrific humiliation of the Serb victims by the Hague Tribunal in the last ten days,” reads the SNS’ release.

The Hague Tribunal on Thursday acquitted Haradinaj of all charges for crimes against Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo.