Former Kosovan premier Ramush Haradinaj arrested in France on Serbia’s warrant

By bne IntelliNews January 5, 2017

Ramush Haradinaj, a former Kosovan prime minister and the leader of the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK),  has been taken into police custody in France on a Serbian arrest warrant for war crimes against Serb civilians committed in Kosovo during 1998 and 1999. Haradinaj’s family confirmed the news to Kosovo’s public broadcaster RTK on the evening of January 4.

Haradinaj, who was prime minister of Kosovo for 100 days in 2004-05 before stepping down to deal with accusations of war crimes, is considered by many Kosovans to be a national hero but has long had to contend with accusations related to his actions as a former rebel commander during Kosovo’s struggle for independence. Haradinaj was cleared of war crimes charges in 2008 and again in 2012, after undergoing two trials by a UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

RTK reported an AAK press release issued on January 4 that said the party has called on the French government to release Haradinaj, and has appealed to the European Union (EU) and EU countries not to impede free movement of the Kosovars according to “illegal Serbia’s warrants”.

AAK also called on Kosovo’s government to halt communications with Serbia until it withdraws arrest warrants against Kosovo’s citizens.

According to Kosovo’s media, even though France has informed Kosovo’s authorities about Haradinaj arrest, official confirmation is still being awaited at Kosovo’s Ministry of Justice.

Haradinaj was stopped at the airport in Basel, on the French side. Basel is located on the borders of Switzerland and Germany and France, and the city zone stretches through the three states.

This is not first time Haradinaj has been arrested on a Serbian warrant issued in 2004, since he was briefly detained and held in Slovenia on June 17, 2015. Even though he had initially been ordered to remain in Slovenia until a court ruled on his case, media reported two days later on June 19 that Haradinaj had been allowed by the court in Kranj, Slovenia, to return to Kosovo as he had diplomatic immunity. Haradinaj is currently an MP.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina is an important segment of Serbia’s EU accession process and is being covered by negotiations under Chapter 35 of that process.

This chapter makes Serbia’s negotiation process unique as it is first country whose progress toward membership is being formally conditioned by a non-EU member. Chapter 35 was one of the two chapters opened by Serbia first. It was opened in December 2015 alongside Chapter 32, which covers financial control.

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