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The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia Friday convicted a man of contempt of court charges and sentenced him to two months in jail for refusing to answer questions on two occasions during trials related to Kosovo in 2007.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) heard that the convicted man, Shefqet Kabashi, was supposed to be a witness in the trial and re-trial of former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, who was charged with crimes against humanity for his actions as commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during its conflict with Serb forces in 1998-99.
“By contumaciously refusing or failing to answer questions as a witness, Mr. Kabashi deprived the Haradinaj et al. Trial Chamber of evidence relevant for an effective ascertainment of truth in the adjudication of that case,” said Judge Alphons Orie, delivering the ICTY judgement Friday in The Hague.
The trial chamber found that any of the motives submitted by defence lawyers for Mr. Kabashi over his refusal or failure to answer questions remained vague and could not be considered in determining the appropriate sentence.
The court considered as mitigating factors his family situation and the fact that, according to medical documents, Mr. Kabashi suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder which worsens in a prison environment.
Although the trial chamber considered Mr. Kabashi’s apology and his guilty plea as genuine, the weight of his remorse was reduced by the fact that he had failed to come before the tribunal to face the charges against him for more than four years.
The ICTY acquitted Mr. Haradinaj in 2008 of charges of murder, rape, torture, abduction, cruel treatment, imprisonment and the forced deportation of ethnic Serbian and Kosovar Roma civilians.
But appeals judges partially quashed the acquittal last year, calling for a re-trial because the trial chamber had not done enough to ensure the testimony of Mr. Kabashi and another witness who experienced “serious witness intimidation,” thus depriving the prosecution of vital support for its case. The original trial had heard how many witnesses felt unsafe.
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