Kosovo ex-PM questioned at war crimes court

Former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj arrives for a Kosovo tribunal, at the Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo)
Updated 24 July 2019

Kosovo ex-PM questioned at war crimes court

  • Haradinaj was the commander of the ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the Western Kosovo region of Dukagjin, where heavy fighting and abuse of civilians occurred on both sides during the war
  • Haradinaj, 51, resigned last week as prime minister after being summoned by the court

THE HAGUE: International prosecutors questioned Kosovo’s ex-prime minister and wartime guerrilla commander Ramush Haradinaj on Wednesday in the latest in a series of war crimes proceedings against him.
Haradinaj left the hearing at the special court for Kosovo in The Hague along with Jakup Krasniqi, a spokesman for his former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who was also questioned.
“I responded today to the special tribunal’s request, as a suspect,” Haradinaj told reporters outside the special court’s high-security buildings.
“I used my right to remain silent,” he said.
Haradinaj was the commander of the ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the Western Kosovo region of Dukagjin, where heavy fighting and abuse of civilians occurred on both sides during the war.
Observers in Kosovo say he could be held accountable for having failed to prevent crimes committed by KLA members under his command.
Haradinaj said prosecutors did not confront him with “concrete” evidence on Wednesday, as they did not have to divulge any information at this stage according to the law.
“They talked about my role during the war, but they did not give me anything concrete... We asked for explanations but did not receive them,” said the former guerrilla.
Hesaid he believed “always to have been in line with what is right.”
“We have fulfilled our legal obligation, according to the laws in force,” Krasniqi told reporters. He did not say whether he himself was questioned as a suspect or a witness.
Haradinaj, 51, resigned last week as prime minister after being summoned by the court.
Created in 2015, the tribunal investigates crimes allegedly committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanian political opponents during and after the 1998-99 war.
Funded by the European Union and composed of international judges, the special court nonetheless falls under Kosovar law and is based in The Hague in order to protect witnesses.
Haradinaj has already been tried and acquitted twice for war crimes by another UN tribunal for former Yugoslavia.
“I always responded to (requirements) of national and international laws (but)... I also have my dignity,” Haradinaj told AFP in January.
The last conflict in the former Yugoslavia between the KLA and Serbian armed forces claimed more than 13,000 lives, including some 11,000 ethnic Albanians.
It ended when a Western bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw.
Two decades later Belgrade still does not recognize its former province’s independence.
Some thirty former KLA members have been summoned by the special court which has yet to file a single criminal charge.
“Freedom fighters always do what is right and just,” Haradinaj wrote on Facebook.


Trump finally dons mask as US sets new virus case record

Updated 12 July 2020

Trump finally dons mask as US sets new virus case record

  • “I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” POTUS tells reporters
  • The US is the worst hit by COVID-19, with more than 3.2 million cases and at least 134,000 deaths as of Saturday

BETHESDA, USA: President Donald Trump finally yielded to pressure and wore a face mask in public for the first time on Saturday as the US posted another daily record for coronavirus cases, while Disney World reopened in a state hit hard by the pandemic.

White House experts leading the national fight against the contagion have recommended wearing face coverings in public to prevent transmission of the illness.

But Trump had repeatedly avoided wearing a mask, even after staffers at the White House tested positive for the virus and as more aides have taken to wearing them.

Hours after the World Health Organization urged countries to step up control measures to rein in the disease, Trump donned a dark mask bearing the presidential seal as he visited wounded military veterans at the Walter Reed military hospital in a suburb outside Washington.

“I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” he told reporters as he left the White House.

Trump is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the polls ahead of a November election and surveys show most Americans are unhappy with how he has handled the public health crisis.

But the president has continued to praise his own response to the pandemic despite a cascade of figures showing the extent of the disease’s spread across the United States.

 

Record-breaking numbers

The country posted yet another daily record of confirmed cases on Saturday night, with 66,528 new infections, while the death toll rose by almost 800 to nearly 135,000.

As of Saturday, the US had recorded more than 3.2 million coronavirus cases and at least 134,000 deaths from the disease. 

It is the country worst hit by the illness, followed by Brazil — which surpassed 70,000 deaths on Friday.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected over 12.5 million people, killed over 560,000 and triggered massive economic damage since the disease was first detected in China late last year.

In Florida, where nearly one in six of those new infections were recorded, the Walt Disney World theme park partially reopened after four months of shutdown prompted by the virus.

Hundreds of people queued to enter the park in Orlando, some sporting Mickey ears but all wearing face masks, with social distancing and other hygiene precautions also in place.

Days earlier, top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said that Florida had begun reopening before meeting the criteria that would have enabled it to do so safely.

 

Aggressive approach urged

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to adopt an aggressive approach to tackling the virus, citing successful mitigation efforts in Italy, South Korea and elsewhere.

“Across all walks of life, we are all being tested to the limit,” he told a virtual news conference in Geneva on Friday.
“Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn this pandemic around,” he added.

Elsewhere, French officials warned of rising cases in metropolitan France as the death toll there topped 30,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted a decision to allow bars and other businesses to reopen may have come “too soon” after his country reported a record 1,500 new infections on Friday.

Australian authorities said they would slash by half the number of people allowed to return from overseas each day after a fresh surge in cases that saw a lockdown imposed on Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city.

In Hong Kong, a spike has marked a setback for the city after daily life had largely returned to normal, with restaurants and bars resuming regular business and cultural attractions reopening.

Schools in the city will be closed from Monday after the city recorded “exponential growth” in locally transmitted infections.