Monday, March 14, 2005

Senator Biden's floor statement on ICTY's indictment of Kosovo's PM Ramush Haradinaj

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, yesterday the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
at the Hague, known by the acronym ICTY, indicted a
fellow that I met several years ago, a guy who was very
much involved in the carnage that took place at the time of
the war in Kosovo. His name is Ramush Haradinaj. This is
a young man who looks like he could lift an ox out of a
ditch. A very hard, tough guy.
Until yesterday he happened to be the Prime Minister of
Kosovo. He was indicted for war crimes in Kosovo during
the period of 1998 and 1999. Mr. Haradinaj declared
himself entirely innocent but resigned as Prime Minister,
surrendered voluntarily, and flew to the Netherlands today
to turn himself in. H e also did something highly unusual in
the Balkans. He issued a statement calling for calm in
From the creation of the Hague Tribunal a decade ago, I
have supported its vitally important work. Beginning with
Judge Goldstone, my staff and I have met with its chief
prosecutors over the past decade. I have great respect for
Carla Del Ponte, the current chief prosecutor and for the
court's judges.
I am confident that H aradinaj will receive a fair trial.
Without presuming to pass judgment on his innocence or
guilt, though, I would like to com ment--this is the first
time I have ever done this--on my personal impressions of
him and also to put his arrest in a larger context relating to
the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia.
Let me begin with my meeting with him in P ristina in
January of 2001. We discussed Kosovo's future, and he
seemed genuinely to recognize that the only way forward
was for the rights of the Kosovo Serbs, and of other non-
Albanian minorities to be guaranteed. During that trip, I
flew by helicopter to western Kosovo where I visited the
Serbian Orthodox Visoki Decani Monastery, a 14 th
century architectural masterpiece which last year was
named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
During the fighting in 1999, the Serbian Orthodox monks
of this monastery had saved Kosovar Albanians from
persecution by Serb forces. Again, these were Serbian
Orthodox monks saving Kosovar Albanians most of them
Muslims--from persecution by Serb forces.
Nevertheless, when I visited the Visoki Decani Monastery
nearly 2 years later, Father Sava and other monks told me
that they were in great danger. In fact, Italian KFOR
armored personnel carriers were lined up in the snow just
outside the monastery's stone walls as a deterrent.
Knowing that the territory around Decani is Mr.
Haradinaj's political base, I sent him a confidential letter
after I returned to Washington. In it I wrote that I was
counting on him to personally guarantee and protect the
Serbian Orthodox monastery I had just visited.
In March of 2004, serious riots against Serbs and other
non-Albanian minorities broke out across Kosovo.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and many medieval
Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were burned
to the ground. KFOR proved unable or unwilling to
prevent this destruction. In fact, in several cases, the
outrages occurred while European KFOR troops stood by.
One of the few venerable monasteries that remained
untouched was Visoki Decani. Mr. Haradinaj had kept his
During the 1998-1999 war, Haradinaj was a leading
commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the KLA.
Hence, his election as Prime Minister last year was
greeted with considerable skepticism. From all reports,
however, in his brief tenure, he has earned nearly
unanimous praise, including from the head of the U.N.
mission in Kosovo, for his constructive and effective
leadership. I am told that even Serbian leaders in Belgrade
privately acknowledge that of all of the Kosovar political
leaders, it is Haradinaj with whom they could potentially
negotiate with the greatest degree of confidence.
Mr. Haradinaj's call for calm, which so far has been
heeded, was based upon a realization that a repeat of the
violence of March 2004 would deal a fatal blow to the
Kosovars' hope that the process toward negotiations on
the final status of Kosovo can begin later this year.
I have said repeatedly that self-determination by the
people of Kosovo is ultimately the only realistic solution
to the problem. Since more than 90 percent of the
population is ethnic Albanian, as is Mr. Haradinaj, with a
collective memory of extreme persecution by the Serbian
government of Slobodan Milosevic, I can't imagine they
would ever vote for a return to being governed by
On the other hand, I have coupled my advocacy of selfdetermination
for Kosovo with the precondition that the
personal safety and freedom of movement of all Kosovo
Serbs, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians, Turks, Bosniaks,
Gorani, and other non-Albanian minorities are being
provided and are guaranteed for the future. As yet,
unfortunately, this has not occurred. Mr. Haradinaj's
statesman-like actions are intended to keep Kosovo on the
path toward Final Status negotiations.
In the overall post-Yugoslav context, Mr. Haradinaj's
willingness after his indictment to surrender voluntarily
and go to The H ague is striking. It stands in glaring
contrast to the behavior of the three most infamous
individuals indicted by The Hague, all of whom are still
fugitives, resisting arrest: former Bosnian Serb General
Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan
Karadzic, and former Croatian General Ante G otovina.
By their evasion of ICTY's indictments, all three are
blocking their countries' progress toward entering Euro-
Atlantic institutions, a necessary precondition for
stabilizing the Western Balkans. The surrender of Mladic,
who is thought to be in Serbia, is necessary for Serbia's
joining NATO's Partnership for Peace and for eventual
NATO and EU membership.
Karadzic's unwillingness to give himself up is blocking
Partnership for Peace membership for Bosnia and
Gotovina's fugitive status is holding up Croatia's
promising candidacy for EU membership.
Whatever the eventual adjudication of his indictment,
Ramush Haradinaj by his dignified departure and public
statement has proven himself to be a patriot. The same
cannot be said of M ladic, Karadzic, and G otovina, whose
selfish actions are standing in the way of much needed
progress for Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia.
Whatever Mr. Haradinaj's fate, I want to pub licly salute
him for his personal courage, for the statesmanship he has
demonstrated over the last two days, and for having kept
his word by doing exactly what he told me he would do
with regard to the monastery. I wish him well. I hope
justice is served, and I applaud him for his wise decision
to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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