Richard Harvey, lead defence counsel at ICTY, wins acquittal for Kosovo Liberation Army client in longest-ever international war crimes case

Friday 30 November 2012

Seven and a half years after their original arraignment, three former Kosovo Liberation Army leaders were acquitted of six charges yesterday in The Hague. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found ex-Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, his cousin Lahi Brahimaj, and Idriz Balaj Not Guilty on all charges. Richard Harvey has represented Lahi Brahimaj since 2005. The three were finally freed after a re-trial, on charges of which they had first been acquitted in 2008.

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In a controversial Appeals Court majority decision in 2010, the Prosecution were allowed a re-trial after they had claimed that two witnesses had failed to testify due to intimidation. These two witnesses testified in the re-trial that they had never been in fear of the accused. One said the only reason he refused to attend the original trial was because of how he had been treated by the prosecution.

In its ruling, the Chamber held that the prosecution had "presented no direct evidence that the crimes were committed as part of a JCE" (joint criminal enterprise). The judges were "not satisfied with the reliability of the evidence of either of the two new witnesses.

After the Judgment was delivered, Richard Harvey said that Carla del Ponte, the prosecutor who ordered the arrest of the three accused, had failed to provide any credible evidence for her repeated claims of witness intimidation and called on her to apologise for her handling of the case.

The full judgement is available on the ICTY website, together with a helpful summary. You can also watch the delivery of the judgment.

Richard Harvey is a senior member of the Garden Court Crime Team, and Chair of Garden Court International.

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