Today, Trial Panel II of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) pronounced its Trial Judgment in the case of The Specialist Prosecutor v. Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj.
The Panel found Mr Gucati and Mr Haradinaj guilty of obstructing official persons in performing official duties, intimidation during criminal proceedings and violating the secrecy of proceedings. These are violations of the Kosovo Criminal Code (KCC) and the Law on Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (Law). The Panel found the Accused not guilty of retaliation. The Panel sentenced each Accused to four and a half years’ imprisonment, with credit for time already served, and a fine of 100 EUR each.
In pronouncing the Trial Judgment, the Panel 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 “[t]he 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.