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.


Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

Updated 04 July 2020

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

  • Young volunteers tackle tough terrain, pandemic myths in isolated northern region

JAKARTA: A group of tech-savvy young locals in Indonesia’s northern North Halmahera regency is spreading awareness about the dangers of COVID-19 in remote corners of the archipelago at a time when bureaucracy has impeded a rapid response to the pandemic.

The Relawan Merah Putih, or Red and White Volunteers, includes a multimedia expert, university students, lecturers, civil servants and a web developer in Tobelo, the main city of North Halmahera in North Maluku province, about 2,500 km from the capital Jakarta.

The city is located on Halmahera island, part of the Maluku Islands, Indonesia’s fabled Spice Islands on the northeastern part of the sprawling archipelago.

Stevie Recaldo Karimang, a 28-year-old freelance photographer and videographer, told Arab News that he set up the group after social restrictions introduced to counter the pandemic put him out of business. 

He quickly developed a website on the pandemic and created online flyers and audiovisual materials that he and 31 other volunteers distributed on social media platforms and messaging apps to educate the public about the pandemic soon after the first cases in Indonesia were confirmed in Jakarta in early March.

“We translated the information we took from the national COVID-19 task force into the market language spoken here, which is a mixture of Indonesian and the local dialect, to make it more understandable for the locals,” Karimang said.

The group also used a drone to issue public warnings against mass gatherings.

“The drone helped to remind people not to form a crowd when social restrictions were enforced. We attached a flashlight to the device to catch the crowd’s attention, and we were able to dismiss such gatherings.”

But the volunteers shifted their efforts to rural areas after the first coronavirus case in North Maluku province was confirmed on March 23.

Jubhar Mangimbulude, a microbiology expert at Halmahera University and the group’s adviser, said the team had visited 30 isolated villages out of 196 townships in the regency, which is home to 161 million people.

“We reached one village after hours of driving over rough terrain. We have to use four-wheel-drive vehicles because along the way we may have to cross a river where the bridge is damaged,” he told Arab News.

Mangimbulude said that many villagers were unaware of the pandemic and only knew from TV that a dangerous virus was spreading quickly and infecting people. He was glad to find that no COVID-19 cases had been detected among the villagers.

But he acknowledged that misinformation was rife and said that he had to debunk myths about “how alcohol could be used to prevent the disease.”

“The villagers heard that the virus can be killed with heat in one’s body, and since drinking alcohol can warm the body, they encouraged their children and elders to drink a local alcoholic beverage made of fermented sugar palm fruit,” Mangimbulude said.

Fellow volunteer Oscar Berthomene, a local civil servant, said that the group was able to move faster than the regency administration whose bureaucracy slowed down the response to the pandemic.

“I have support from my supervisor, and we were able to help their activities with cars to allow them to move around,” he told Arab News.

The regency has about 18 percent of the 953 cases in the province, which make up about 1.5 percent of the national total of 62,142 as of Saturday.