The UN in Kosovo praises potential war criminal – why?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 208 – March 10, 2005

Originally published here.

Danish diplomat, Søren Jessen-Petersen is the highest authority in Kosovo and SRSG, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, there. In spite of that, his unconditional embrace of Mr. Ramush Haradinaj, a former leader of the illegal Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and former prime minister in the non-independent Kosovo and now indicted for war crimes by the Hague Tribunal seems to raise no eyebrows in any capital, media or at the UN in New York.

All relevant links here. See also the TFF Kosovo Solution Series beginning here.

 

Mr. Søren Jessen-Petersen’s embrace of Haradinaj

In a statement on Haradinaj’s resignation Jessen-Petersen praises him for his “dynamic leadership, strong commitment and vision” and says that thanks to that “Kosovo is today closer than ever before to achieving its aspirations in settling its future status.” He calls him his “close partner and friend.” In spite of the fact that the Prime Minister had no choice but to voluntarily go to the Hague, Kofi Annan’s representative praises him for the “dignity and maturity” he has shown in deciding to do so. He also expresses his understanding of the “shock and anger” the people of Kosovo must feel at this development, “people” meaning of course only the Albanians and hardly the Serbs, Romas and other minorities living there.

Søren Jessen-Petersen continues in a paragraph that deserves to be quoted at length:

“The decision announced by Mr. Haradinaj to co-operate 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. I trust that Mr. Haradinaj will again be able to serve Kosovo to whose better future he has sacrificed and contributed so much.”

Unless the SRSG implies that Haradinaj’s going to the Hague Tribunal is to serve Kosovo – which is unlikely given other parts of the statement – he here expresses his belief in Mr. Haradinaj’s innocence and his return to be of service to Kosovo. Isn’t that sensational? One wonders whether he SRSG implies that the indictment by the Hague Tribunal is a mistake or not serious? Does Kofi Annan’s representative show a certain disdain for the Tribunal that was set up in 1993 by the very organisation he represents?

Is he unaware of what kind of organisation KLA was and that, at an early stage, it was considered a terrorist organisation by high-level US diplomats? Does he consider every and each charge against Haradinaj raised by Serbia (of which Kosovo is a part) sheer inventions? Has he not had access to intelligence information about the activities of KLA units at the time when Haradinaj was a hard-line extremist with a gun in his hand? Has he never heard anyone talk about these things in Kosovo? Or does he carelessly ignore it all and believes that his dear friend Haradinaj was constitutionally unable to do anything bad back in the 1990s? All relevant links here.

It goes without saying anyone shall be considered non-guilty until proven guilty. So too Haradinaj. But “trusting” that he is 100% innocent and will return to Kosovo is to make a political point beyond that. And, mind you, no international diplomat and few media ever respected the mentioned principle when it comes to Milosevic or other people indicted by the Tribunal.

Fullständiga texten till Tribunalens åtal finnar man här

Den kortare versionen av åtalet – Pressmeddelande

 

Does the international community’s fear of failure explain this sympathy?

Mr. Søren Jessen-Petersen is neither naïve nor inexperienced. So two explanations are left: A) His cosy chat about his potential war crimes friend is what he has been told by some participant in the greater scheme of things to say; it is not Kofi Annan whose own statement was much more careful. This explanation can not be ruled out. Or B) that this is an example of the shabbiness that has come to define the international community’s conflict-management policies in Kosovo. Why so?

Because it is a manifest conflict-resolution and peace-building failure. Six years after NATO’s bombing and all the implicit promises given to the Albanian side about independence, Albanian hardliners and many ordinary Albanians want the international community to deliver very soon. Unfortunately, there is no viable solution in sight. Albanian patience, for very good reasons, is running out. I know from my visits to the province that no observer there dare rule out that we could witness anything from localised riots to warfare if the Albanians do not see progress in the direction of formal independence. And who is going to grant Kosovo that? Mr. Clinton and Madeleine Albright? The International Crisis Group – a near-governmental organisation that now runs a campaign for Kosovo’s independence with its pro-Albanian lobbyists and NATO bombing advocates? Or the UN Security Council – but that won’t be able to. Carving out provinces and make them states by bombing is a bit too much for those who have secessionist provinces themselves.

The international community, to put it crudely, is afraid of ending up facing by and large the same challenges from their post-1999 friends as Belgrade leaders did, just much worse because, after all, Milosevic never promised Kosovo any kind of independence.

The international community in general and the Security Council in particular cannot get its acts together, except in one regard because it helps cover up its own failure: blame Belgrade for everything going wrong the last 10 years and praise the Albanians in the role as innocent victims. Such is the political psychology behind the headlines and the statements: Side with one and try anyhow to look like an impartial mediator and negotiation leader. Well, that Jessen-Petersen can no longer be. His statements is a Himalayan mistake from the point of view of building trust with the Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo and with Belgrade. And contrary to what he and many others seem to believe, no sustainable solution to Kosovo’s problems can be found without them.

 

The differences between Serbs and other indicted people

Serb President Milosevic was thrown out by his own people in a miraculous non-violent action. The people rose against their own leader, something the Croats, Bosniaks or Albanians never even contemplated to express their contempt, if any, for their own leaders’ manipulations, corruption, militarism, nepotism, nationalism and the shame they brought over their own people. Then Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindic got nothing of what he was allegedly promised by the West for delivering Milosevic to the Hague; rather, his action is likely to have been one of the reasons why he was murdered.

Within the last few months, six high-level Serb officers have accepted, like Haradinaj, to go to the Hague. No international praise for them. Instead one hears the mantra that Belgrade must deliver Karadzic and Mladic. Does anyone seriously believe that NATO have not been able for 10 years to find them in Bosnia or that NATO states do not have such intelligence that they know where they are? Belgrade is constantly told that they must be in Serbia and that Belgrade must cooperate with the Hague Tribunal to get any help and see the door to EU integration open just a little. This is as bizarre as can be. CIA and FBI people have been invited by the Belgrade authorities to find them in Serbia. For about a year they have been unable to. Could it be that someone wants to avoid arresting them and have them as a card to play against Belgrade?

Be this as it may, let’s remember two things: First, that “balkanisation” is a much too nice term for the unprincipled games played in that region by the international community during the last 15 or so years. Secondly, Mr. Søren Jessen-Petersen has offered the world a new distinction, namely that between our good, friendly potential war criminals who deserve our sympathy for accepting the law – and the others who, doing the same, deserve no praise.

One wonders how Kofi Annan feels about his representative’s embrace of a man indicted for war crimes at the UN Tribunal? We don’t know but he has reasons to hope that no leading daily will begin to investigate the cosy day-to-day co-operation between the UN and the Albanian extremists – and Haradinaj is not the only one – in the Kosovo province since 1999.

 

All relevant links here. See also the TFF Kosovo Solution Series beginning here.

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