A Kosovo journalist told the trial of the Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans’ Organisation’s leaders that they gave him what they said were confidential documents from the case files of the war crimes court in The Hague.
Halil Berisha, a journalist from Pristina, told the trial of Kosovo Liberation Army War Veterans’ Organisation leaders Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague on Tuesday how he received the allegedly leaked war crimes case files from the defendants.
Berisha said that he took “around 1,000 pages of documents” from the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation in September 2020.
Gucati and Haradinaj are accused of obstruction of justice and witness intimidation because they received the documents, which contained confidential information about protected witnesses in the cases against Kosovo Liberation Army ex-guerrillas, and urged media to publish extracts from them.
Berisha was working for the Pristina-based Infokusi news website when he attended a press conference organised by the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation in September 2020.
“The volume of documents was huge, it was not possible to record
all of them so I asked [Gucati and Haradinaj] if I could take some of the documents,” he said.
Officials from the Kosovo Specialist Prosecution seized the documents several days later.
“As far as I remember, we published articles about the documents only during the time we were in possession of them. After that, we continued to report about this issue but not about the specific documents because we didn’t have them,” Berisha said.
He explained that during the press conference, the heads of the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation said that “those documents were brought by someone earlier in the morning that day and that they are presenting them to media”.
“They said that the documents belonged to the Specialist Chambers,” Berisha said.
The witness explained that after the press conference, journalists and cameraman went to the table where the documents were placed and started to video them.
In her introductory speech, prosecutor Valeria Bolici stated that on September 6, 2020, some boxes were left in the hallway of the offices of the KLA War Veterans’ Organisation in Pristina.
In the boxes were case files with the names and personal information of potential witnesses in war crimes investigations at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.
Gucati and Haradinaj then held three press conferences at which they revealed confidential information from the files and identified “details of certain (potential) witnesses”, the prosecution alleges.
Gucati and Haradinaj have both pleaded not guilty.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers were set up, under pressure from Kosovo’s Western allies, to try crimes allegedly committed during and just after the Kosovo war from 1998 to 2000. They are part of Kosovo’s judicial system but located in the Netherlands and staffed by internationals.
Witness protection has been a key concern for the Specialist Chambers after incidents of witness-tampering at previous trials of KLA commanders.
The so-called ‘Special Court’ is widely resented by Kosovo Albanians who see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from Serbian rule.