Kosovo demands investigation into ex-U.N. prosecutor del Ponte

PRISTINA Sun Dec 2, 2012 3:09pm EST

Carla Del Ponte, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia addresses a conference at the Geneva Press Club in Geneva April 5, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Carla Del Ponte, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia addresses a conference at the Geneva Press Club in Geneva April 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo called on Sunday for an investigation into the work of former United Nations chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte after the country's former prime minister was acquitted for a second time on war crimes charges brought by the Swiss lawyer.

Ramush Haradinaj, a Kosovo Albanian former guerilla commander who served briefly as prime minister, was cleared last week of crimes against humanity in a retrial at the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Judges ruled there was no evidence to support charges against him of crimes against humanity during the 1998-99 war between guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and security forces under late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

In a statement, Kosovo's government accused del Ponte of abuse of power and of damaging the image of the country, which won independence from Serbia in 2008.

"These powers and privileges were exceeded and abused to the extent that completely unfounded charges were filed," it said, complaining the reputation of those accused and of the state had been "blackened".

"The government urges the secretary general of the tribunal, the United Nations as well as other international authorities to begin investigating her illegal actions."

Officials at the Hague tribunal were not immediately available to comment on the statement.

The charges were brought by del Ponte in 2005 against Haradinaj, who was first acquitted in 2008.

Del Ponte is currently part of a U.N. commission tasked with gathering evidence of alleged war crimes in Syria, having worked between 1999 and 2008 at the U.N.'s tribunal for the former Yugoslavia based in The Hague.

Of six Kosovo Albanians charged with war crimes during Kosovo's 1998-99 guerrilla insurgency to break away from Serbia, only one conviction still stands.

The Haradinaj verdict dealt a fresh blow to U.N. prosecutors after the acquittal on appeal two weeks earlier of Croatian general Ante Gotovina for crimes against Serbs during a 1995 military offensive.

Prosecutors have complained of widespread witness intimidation in Kosovo, where the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army enjoys hero-status and clan loyalties run deep.

The other most prominent Kosovo Albanian indictee, Fatmir Limaj, was acquitted at the tribunal in 2005, but faces similar charges brought by the European Union's police and justice mission in Kosovo.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Sophie Hares)

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