Blaskic Case

Tribunal Update 23: Last Week in The Hague (April 7-12, 1997)

Blaskic Case

Tribunal Update 23: Last Week in The Hague (April 7-12, 1997)

Saturday, 12 April, 1997

Although it concluded that the indictment was "in principle" in accordance with the Statute and Rules of the Tribunal, the Chamber ruled that certain expressions referring to places where incidents attributed to Blaskic occurred were too broad. The expressions, such as "including, but not limited to. . . " or "among other things. . ." are open to various interpretations, and should not be used in an indictment.

The judges also ordered the prosecutor to specify the times of certain events which are very broadly defined (for example, "between about May 1992 and about April 1994").

The Prosecutor was also requested to specify what sort of responsibility Blaskic had for the crimes of Croat Defence Council (HVO) forces in Central Bosnia: is he being credited with direct command responsibility, or indirect responsibility for crimes carried out by his subordinates and which he did nothing to prevent or punish.

In addition, the judges are demanding specific details and descriptions of events relating to counts 2 and 3 in the indictment-"Unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian objects"); specifics about where, when and which religious and cultural objects were destroyed and looted (counts 10-13); and clarification of when, how and which categories among the Muslim population were taken hostage by HVO forces under Blaskic's command (counts 16 and 17).

The deadline for all these clarifications is April 18, to give Blaskic's lawyers time to prepare their defence for hearings which will most probably begin in May.

While partially accepting the objections to the form of the indictment, Trial Chamber I rejected all the other requests of Blaskic's defence counsel, Anto Nobilo and Russell Hayman.

First, the judges rejected the request to erase the counts in the indictment which describe Blaskic as responsible for Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions because, according to the defence, "the Prosecutor has failed to adequately plead the existence of an international armed conflict," and "specifically, has failed to allege the complete control of the Republic of Croatia over the HVO."

The judges, however, consider that they cannot rule on the character of the Bsonian conflict in a preliminary hearing, and have therefore left that issue for the main debate and the evidentiary hearing. The Chamber has also postponed until the trial its response to the defence request to define the criteria for establishing whether or not the accused general "knew or had reason to know" that his subordinates were about to commit such crimes, or had committed such crimes.

Lastly, the judges rejected the motion to strike portions of the indictment alleging "failure to punish" liability, which-according to the defence-"lacks any precedent in established international customary law, violates the principle of nullum crimen sine lege [no crime exists unless defined by law] and falls outside the subject-matter jurisdiction of this Tribunal." Trial Chamber I, however, concluded that the principle of commanders' responsibility for punishment is "confirmed in international law, and that therefore does not violate the principle of nullum crimen sine lege."

Support our journalists