Kosovo war veterans’ leaders found guilty of witness intimidation - Gazeta Express
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Kosovo war veterans’ leaders found guilty of witness intimidation


Gazeta Express

18/05/2022 12:11

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) has found former leaders of the Association of KLA Veterans Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj guilty of obstructing official persons in performing official duties, intimidation during criminal proceedings and violating the secrecy of proceedings and sentenced them to four and a half years’ imprisonment each, with the credit time already served, and a fine of 100 euro each, Gazeta Express reports.

Hysni Gucati, who was chairman of the Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans Association when he was arrested in 2020, and his deputy, Nasim Haradinaj, were charged with obstructing justice and intimidation for allegedly revealing information that included the identity of potential witnesses at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers court. On Wednesday, in pronouncing the Trial Judgment, the Trial Panel of the KSC emphasized that this case concerns the proper administration of justice, the integrity and security of proceedings and the safety, well-being and freedom from fear of hundreds of persons who have come forward to fulfil their civic duty as witnesses. The protection of witnesses from intimidation and harm lies at the very foundation of any system of criminal justice, be that domestic or international. The Panel described the acts of the Accused as a challenge to that foundation and therefore a threat to justice.

The Panel found that, in September 2020, Mr Gucati and Mr Haradinaj revealed, in three press conferences, over twenty other media appearances and through social media posts, confidential information pertaining to the investigations and internal work of the Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO). This information was protected under the Law. It included the names of hundreds of witnesses and potential witnesses. The Accused revealed this information by: displaying the documents that contained it; allowing others to inspect, film, photograph, copy or take away the documents; and by publicly describing the document’s contents. In addition to these acts, the Panel found that the Accused publicly called witnesses “traitors”, “spies”, “collaborators” and “Albanian-speakers”. Delivered in the context of a long-standing climate of witness intimidation in Kosovo, the Panel found that the Accused intended for these remarks to make witnesses and potential witnesses fearful and therefore hesitant to provide information in SPO investigations concerning ex-KLA members.

The Panel also found that “the Accused’s conduct was a means to an end: to prevent the SPO from effective investigations and prosecutions of ex-KLA members. On the charge of retaliation, the Panel found that, the way this crime is defined in the KCC requires the SPO must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Accused acted against certain witnesses with the awareness that the information those witnesses had provided was, at least to some extent, truthful. The Panel found that the SPO had failed to present evidence on this point of law, and therefore acquitted both Accused of the criminal offence of retaliation.

According to the indictment filed by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) between at least 7 and 25 September 2020, on the occasion of three press conferences and other broadcasted events, as well as through further dissemination, Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj revealed, without authorisation, information protected under the Law of the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, including the identifying details of certain (potential) witnesses. The accused also made disparaging accusations and remarks against (potential) witnesses and repeatedly expressed their intention to undermine the Specialist Chambers. Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj were arrested in Pristina, Kosovo, on 25 September 2020, and transferred to the KSC Detention Facilities on 25 and 26 September, respectively. /GazetaExpress/