Robert Harneis – TDO – A vice president of the European parliament, Ulrike Lunacek has demanded the release of former Kosovan Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. She claimed the arrest warrants were ‘totally unacceptable’. The Austrian MEP (Greens) asked the EU to find “clear words towards Serbia that outdated arrest warrants like these need to be withdrawn”. The French court of appeal in Colmar, however, has ruled that he must stay in custody until a formal Serbian extradition application is heard. He is accused of torturing and killing many Serbians.

The former Prime Minister is held under an arrest warrant issued by the Serbian government in 2004 for alleged war crimes committed when he was the commander of the Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA) during the NATO backed struggle for Kosovo to break away from Serbia.

Haradinaj was arrested at Basel Mulhouse airport which straddles the Swiss French border, off a flight from Pristina. Passengers can choose a French or a Swiss exit. The airport is also only a few kilometers from Germany. It is possible that the former President thought that he was on purely Swiss controlled territory.

The Kosovan government has regularly protested at the use of Interpol Warrants by Serbia and demanded that such questions should be dealt with in the ongoing talks between Belgrade and Pristina under EU sponsorship.

Meanwhile the Serbian Justice Ministry has said that it will seek his extradition to Serbia within the shortest possible time. Asked by a reporter from the Serbian channel b92 whether the Serbian government intended to seek his extradition, Prime Minister Vucic replied ‘You bet we will.’ Referring to continuing negotiations between Serbia and the EU for Serbia to join the European Union, he added “They over in Europe, if they don’t like it, super. Let him go once again. Then come here to lecture me about (EU accession talks) chapters 23 ad 24 and the principles of the rule of law.”

In 2015 Haradinaj was arrested on the same warrants in Slovenia in June 2015. The Slovenian government released him after two days amidst protests in Kosovo and allegedly as the result of diplomatic pressure.

The former Prime Minister was also tried in April 2008 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia but acquitted. The prosecution appealed and there was a partial retrial in and he was again acquitted on all charges.

During a hearing in 2005 as to whether he should be kept in custody during the trial, the prosecution alleged that ‘the unique circumstances and the climate for witnesses living in Kosovo are such that the chamber cannot be satisfied that the provisional release will not pose a danger to victims and witnesses.’. However, the court ruled that the ‘Trial chamber is satisfied … that there are no indications that he will pose any danger to witnesses.’

Ramush Haradinaj is currently the leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK). He is regarded by many Kosovans as a liberator and a hero but a gangster and a war criminal by many Serbs.

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