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Blaskic's Lawyer Fined For Contempt Of Court

Tribunal Update 106: Last Week in The Hague (14-19 December, 1998)

But Nobilo must pay 4,000 guilders within seven days and the remaining 6,000 only if he is again found in contempt of the Tribunal within one year. The maximum penalty for contempt of the Tribunal is US$ 10,000 or six months imprisonment.

Last September, during the Blaskic trial, Nobilo disclosed the identity and occupation of a protected witness, who had testified for the Prosecution in the Aleksovski trial. The Prosecution had lodged a complaint with the Trial Chamber alleging that its witness protection order had been violated.

In his written response, Mr. Nobilo did not contest the facts of the allegation, but argued that he had been unaware of the protective order. On 20 November, the Chamber sitting on the Aleksovski case (Judge Rodrigues, presiding, Judge Vohrah and Judge Nieto Navia) heard the arguments of the parties in closed session.

With regard to the testimony by a witness before the Chamber, rules provide that "any person who (...) discloses information relating to those proceedings in knowing violation of an order of the Chamber (...) commits a contempt of the Tribunal." The Chamber considered that decisions regarding the protection of witnesses are of primary importance, not only for the protection of the lives of the witnesses, but also for the functioning of the Tribunal.

Therefore, all those involved in the work of the Tribunal, including the lawyers, must take all necessary measures to guarantee the absolute respect of protective measures for witnesses. The Chamber held that "in knowing violation" not only entails a deliberate violation, but also a deliberate abstention from checking the circumstances under which a witness has given evidence.

Nobilo announced an appeal against the fine on grounds that according to the rules of the Tribunal, the key element in prosecution is whether the violation - which he does not deny - was committed consciously. He had, Nobilo argues, revealed the identity of the witness "inadvertently," not knowing that the witness is under protection.

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