Kosovo: a war crimes trial

My confident guess is that 75% of the westerners who notice a headline about a war crimes trial concerning Kosovo will automatically assume that the defendants facing war crimes charges are Serbs, with their unsavoury reputation for ethnic cleansing and attendant brutalities.  Actually the chief defendant who went on trial last week is a Kosovo Albanian, a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (freedom fighters or separatist terrorists, according to taste) whose violent campaign against Serbian rule provoked the disproportionately savage Serbian repression which in turn led to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, which in turn aggravated and accelerated the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo by the Serbs and drove thousands of Kosovo Albanians into squalid refugee camps in neighbouring countries (note:  this happened after the start of the NATO bombing, which can't therefore be justified as having been designed to stop it).

According to an AP report of 2 March 2007 in the International Herald Tribune, —

Former Kosovo Prime Minister and rebel commander Ramush Haradinaj pleaded innocent Thursday at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal to charges of involvement in the murder, rape and torture of Serbs and suspected Serb collaborators in the province's 1998-1999 war.

Haradinaj is scheduled to go on trial starting Monday together with two other former KLA fighters, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj. Prosecutors say all three were part of a criminal plot to drive Serbian forces out of the Western Kosovo region of Dukagjin.

The trio sat impassively as presiding judge Alphons Orie read out a total of 37 war crimes charges against them, including multiple counts of murder, persecution and torture against each. A conviction on any charge could carry a sentence of up to life in prison….

Ramush turned to politics after the war and was prime minister for 100 days before being indicted by U.N. prosecutors in 2005.

The same report mentions in passing that —

After NATO air strikes against Serb forces ended fighting in 1999, Haradinaj transformed himself from a tough KLA commander — prosecutors say ruthless — into a political leader… [my emphasis — BLB]

— thus once again helping to perpetuate the myth that it was the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that "ended fighting in 1999".  Actually the NATO bombing did no such thing;  it accomplished nothing but the killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians, the destruction of much of the economic infrastructure of Belgrade and neighbouring countries, and the inevitable revival of Serbian nationalistic support for the crook Milosevic.  What ended the Serbian repression in Kosovo and some (but not all) of the ruthless activities of the KLA was the constructive and flexible behind-the-scenes diplomacy of the emissaries of the US and Russian governments and of the then President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari.  But the myths are well on the way to being accepted as historical truth.  (Don't blame me: I've tried to do my tiny bit to stem this tide, as you can see from e.g. this, and in more detail this.  But it's hopeless.)


1 Response

  1. Neil Craig says:

    After they had negotiated a hand over to the UN, with a guarantee that the KLA would be disarmed & Yugoslav sovererignty respected, the UN became a flag of convenience for NATO who did not disarm the openly genocidal KLA but allowed them to ethnically cleanse 350,000 (including Roma & Jews), murder many thousands (the decision of our media to censor any reporting of the Dragodan massacre of 210 people, comparable to My Lai, is particularly obscene)  & run a profitable sideline in kidnapped schoolgirls. Nato are now trying to get the Security Council to end Serb sovereignty.

    Brian writes:  I don't know about the details, but this sounds broadly right.  There's an interesting but sobering commentary by Simon Tisdall on the whole issue here. At last some scepticism about the official version of what happened in Kosovo (and in the rest of Yugoslavia) in 1999 is beginning to seep in.  What a mess!