The former interior minister of Bosnia’s Serbian entity has asked for his conviction to be thrown out after one of the judges who heard his case was removed from another long-running trial.
Mico Stanisic, along with his co-accused Stojan Zupljanin, was sentenced to 22 years in prison last March after being found guilty on counts of persecution, murder and torture. (For more on the case, see Convictions for Bosnian Serb Police Officials .)
Danish Judge Frederik Harhoff was one of three judges who delivered the unanimous verdict against the two men.
However, after Judge Harhoff sent a controversial email this June, a panel of his peers found that he “demonstrated bias” and removed him from the case against Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj. That decision was upheld last week. (See Decision To Disqualify Seselj Judge Upheld .)
Lawyers for Stanisic argued in an October 14 motion that Judge Harhoff exhibited “an unacceptable appearance of bias in favour of convicting accused persons”.
“Considering that Judge Harhoff was a member of the bench that convicted the applicant, it is evident that Mr Stanisic’s fair trial rights have been irreparably violated,” the lawyers wrote.
The lack of “three impartial judges”, they argued, means that “the entire trial process culminating in the trial judgement does not accord with recognised international legal standards and must be vacated”.
The motion noted that Judge Burton Hall, who was on the Stanisic/Zupljanin trial bench, sat on the panel that disqualified Judge Harhoff.
It went on to point out that in contrast to the Seselj case, judgement had already been rendered against Stanisic.
“In the Seselj case, there remains the possibility that the proceedings can continue with a substitute judge. However, in the applicant’s case, the only available remedy is that which is currently sought, namely the immediate discontinuation of the proceedings due to their invalidity,” the defence submission stated.
Since both Stanisic and Zupljanin appealed against the trial verdict, this new motion will be dealt with by the appeals chamber.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.