Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today acquitted Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj of all charges brought against them during a partial re-trial which began in August 2011. The case is historic in that it is the first international criminal case in which a retrial has been ordered after acquittals were returned at the original trial.
Haradinaj, Balaj and Brahimaj were originally charged in the case of Prosecutor v Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj, and Lahi Brahimaj (Case No IT-04-84-T) on 4 March 2005 with 37 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. On 3 April 2008 Haradinaj and Balaj were acquitted of all charges. Brahimaj was convicted of two counts and sentenced to six years imprisonment.
The Prosecution appealed the judgment, arguing, in part, that the Trial Chamber breached its right to a fair trial by not allowing it additional time, after the nine-month original trial, in which to secure the evidence of two additional witnesses, both of whom were claimed to be critical to the Prosecution case.
On 21 July 2010, the ICTY Appeals Chamber, with Judge Robinson dissenting, granted that appeal in part, reversing six counts of the original 37 and ordering a retrial on those counts so that testimony from the two witnesses could be presented.
The partial retrial began before a new Trial Chamber on 18 August 2011. The Prosecution presented evidence from 56 witnesses at the partial re-trial, including the two witnesses with respect to whom the partial re-trial was ordered. As occurred at the original trial, none of the Accused presented an affirmative defence; they argued the Prosecution evidence failed to establish the case brought against them.
In returning the acquittal after the partial re-trial, the Trial Chamber found the testimony from crucial witnesses, including one of the witnesses who was cause for ordering the partial retrial, was inconsistent and not reliable. It held that while the Prosecution had proved that some of the crimes charged had taken place, they had failed to prove the Accused were liable for them under any of the theories of liability alleged, and acquitted all three Accused of liability for the charged Joint Criminal Enterprise.
Counsel for Idriz Balaj are ICLB founding members Gregor Guy-Smith and Colleen Rohan. The full text of the trial judgment can be found at www.icty.org. The case is Prosecutor v Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, IT-04-84bis-T, 20 November 2012.