The Haradinaj Affair

Kosovo “Prime Minister” Indicted

Three months after he was appointed “prime minister” in the “provisional government” of the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj has stepped down and surrendered to the Hague Inquisition. He did so after receiving a sealed indictment, whose contents had not been made public as of Tuesday night. Haradinaj’s surrender earned lavish praise from the United States and the UN viceroy, as well as generally positive coverage in the mainstream Western media, in a marked contrast with the tradition of considering the indictment as proof of guilt.

Though authorities and public opinion in Serbia may interpret Haradinaj’s indictment as a sign of the Inquisition’s impartiality – which even the media concede must be the ICTY’s intent – and a change in the “international community’s” position regarding Kosovo, the truth is most likely nothing of the sort. The push to grant Albanians the independence of the territory they seized through NATO’s intervention is proceeding apace, and chances are Haradinaj’s surrender will be used to further that cause rather than hinder it.

Lamenting the Golden Boy

The indictment and resignation of Our Man Ramush, though rumored for over a week, still came as a shock to some. A reporter for The Times of London lamented, “These war crimes charges are very much a destabilizing act, with destabilizing consequences for a fragile Kosovo.”

Kosovo’s UN viceroy, Soeren Jessen-Petersen, who had just celebrated a major KLA anniversary with Haradinaj the evening before, issued a pathos-soaked statement Tuesday morning:

“Thanks to Ramush Haradinaj’s dynamic leadership, strong commitment and vision, Kosovo is today closer than ever before to achieving its aspirations in settling its future status. Personally, I am saddened to no longer be working with a close partner and friend… The decision announced by Mr. Haradinaj to cooperate with the Tribunal, despite his firm conviction of innocence, and although painful for him, his family, Kosovo and for his many friends and partners, including in UNMIK, is at the same time an example of Kosovo’s growing political maturity as a responsible member of the international community.” [.pdf]

Jessen-Petersen has been a leading member of the Ramush Haradinaj Fan Club for a while, so it is little wonder that he keeps coming up with ecstatic praise for the man whom British soldiers once termed a “psychopath” who terrorized his own men and the local population. While this position may make Jessen-Petersen popular with Albanians, it doesn’t exactly speak favorably of him as a human being.

A Clear Message

While some were bemoaning the “injustice” of Ramush’s indictment, others readily pointed out the opportunity it created for the Albanians. Jessen-Petersen alluded to it when talking about “political maturity.” Haradinaj himself made a statement to that extent.

According to the AP, “UN officials are believed to favor ultimate independence for the province. … Haradinaj suggested the decision to indict him was motivated by UN concerns that Serbs needed to be mollified before such a decision was reached.”

Who exactly believes this is unclear – perhaps the Albanians? – but despite the official UN pronouncements, the choice of viceroys and their policies and statements certainly give credence to this speculation. This could easily be Haradinaj’s fabrication, intended to cast his indictment in the best possible light. Yet it could equally be the truth, which the UN and the U.S. would never admit openly, but the AP and Haradinaj can.

Certainly, the remarks of U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher favor Haradinaj’s interpretation. Having praised Ramush’s actions for “[demonstrating] his deep concern for the future of Kosovo and its people,” Boucher added:

“2005 is an important year for the aspirations of the people of Kosovo. … In order to receive a positive assessment from the comprehensive review later this year and to begin a process to determine its future status, Kosovo must preserve peace and continue to work to implement the standards.” (AFP/Turkish Press)

When stripped of the faux-diplomatic lingo, the message is fairly straightforward: play along, and you will get what you want.

Finally, on the pages of the International Herald Tribune on Wednesday, someone named Borut Grgic editorialized in support of the ICTY, saying that if “Albanians ensure a peaceful transition [after Haradinaj], there will be renewed pressure on the international community to move toward a discussion on final status.”

The words add up, as much as they can.

What Will Belgrade Do?

Haradinaj’s resignation and voluntary surrender have certainly cast Belgrade into turmoil. The precarious coalition of Prime Minister Kostunica has long tried to find a balance between the shrill demands of the Hague Inquisition and its domestic partisans, the abject refusal by its Socialist supporters to allow arrests, and whatever scraps of sovereignty Serbia managed to retain in between. No matter how many generals, officials, and documents Belgrade sends to The Hague, it is never enough. For the Inquisition and its supporters, nothing short of unconditional surrender will do.

Mainstream Western media frequently misrepresent that Serbs dislike the ICTY because of the preponderance of Serb defendants. Even the AP was cynical enough to note that, given this supposedly unfounded prejudice against the ICTY, the Serbs were “likely to see Haradinaj’s indictment as at least partially righting such perceived injustice.”

The question, however, is not simply the quantity, but the quality of the indictments. While individual Croats, Muslims, and now Albanians have been charged with specific offenses, none of these indictments has any bearing on the character of the war. Few in Serbia are aware that every Serb political and military leader in the former Yugoslavia has been indicted for a grand conspiracy – both a de facto and a de jure attempt to blame the Serbs for the Succession Wars and all the atrocities that occurred (or were fabricated) in their course.

Almost unnoticed amid the noise over Haradinaj was the surrender of the former army chief of staff, General Momcilo Perisic. Indicted just as he was about to go on trial for espionage, Perisic is now touted as the “missing link” between Belgrade and the Serb forces in Bosnia and Croatia, “proof” that Slobodan Milosevic masterminded the Yugoslav Wars.

Yet the “Hague lobby,” exemplified by the Jacobin daily Danas (Wednesday’s headline: “The world praises Haradinaj – Belgrade must make the next move”), is already treating Haradinaj’s surrender as proof of ICTY’s fairness, and pushing for more arrests, more extraditions.

Another pro-Imperial outfit, B92, said that Haradinaj’s indictment “confirms Belgrade’s argument that Albanians were not completely innocent.” However, the main argument coming from Belgrade – much as there is one – has never been that Albanians were “not completely innocent,” but that they were guilty as all hell! Even if Haradinaj and his fellow KLA are convicted of every count of their indictments, their actual crimes are greater still.

Where Ramush Belongs

The AP reporter quotes Haradinaj as saying “I have behaved like an honorable man,” and interprets this to mean his actions in the 1998-99 war against the Serbs were “consistent with international law.” But Haradinaj’s concept of honor is based on the medieval clan law of the Albanian Kanun, where murder is allowed if one’s enemies are declared non-persons. This fate befell not just the Serbs, but also the Roma and Albanians who “collaborated”; all were targeted by the KLA, some by Haradinaj personally.

Ramush Haradinaj is therefore not a war criminal. He’s a murderous thug and a terrorist who should be tried by a provincial magistrate, not a panel of powdered-wig international judges holding Imperial sinecures. Treating him like a valiant statesman facing his international obligations deliberately distorts the truth that is Kosovo: a heart of darkness, courtesy of the KLA, NATO, and the UN.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.