Bosnian Army Officers Summonsed

Tribunal Update 48: Last Week in The Hague (October 13 - 17)

Bosnian Army Officers Summonsed

Tribunal Update 48: Last Week in The Hague (October 13 - 17)

Friday, 17 October, 1997

It has issued Croatia and its Defence Minister with a Subpoena Duces Tecum and it has carried out its first arrest Slavko Dokmanovic in co-operation with UNTAES. Now the Tribunal has issued its first subpoena ad testificandum summoning witnesses to appear before the court. This order was issued to six individuals in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina called to testify in the Celebici trial.

The witnesses summoned are three high-ranking officers of the Bosnian Army - Jovan Divjak, Arif Pasalic and Esad Ramic - two undertakers from Konjic, and the Custodian of the Government Records of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The officers (the first is retired, the second still active, and the third is now in politics) are to testify about the system of command and control in the Army. They are called by the prosecution which hopes to prove the command responsibility of the accused Zejnil Delalic and Zdravko Mucic.

The undertakers will be asked to give statements about the bodies of the dead brought from the Celebici camp. They are called in connection with the multiple murder for which Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo are charged.

Finally, the Custodian of Records is expected to confirm (or dispute) the authenticity of 14 official documents concerning the appointment, powers and activities of Zejnil Delalic, former Commander of the Tactical Group of the Bosnian Army.

The prosecution has been in contact with most of the witnesses for some time. They were supposed to testify this week (October 20-23) from Sarajevo via video-link with The Hague. Some, however, refused to take up the role of prosecution witnesses.

Insisting on the importance of their testimony, prosecutor Grant Niemann requested that the Trial Chamber issue a subpoena to the witnesses and order the Bosnian government to secure their appearance before the Tribunal. The idea of the video-link was subsequently abandoned partly for technical reasons, and partly because as Judge Jan commented, if the witnesses refused to appear in The Hague for fear of being seen as traitors "they would be no lesser traitors if they testified via the video-link from Sarajevo." This way at least, they will be able to say that they testified under the threat of sanctions.

The Trial Chamber accepted the request for a subpoena, as detailed in the Tribunal's Statute and Rules of Procedure. But they were much more cautious about the idea of issuing an order to the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Firstly, the question of the power of the Tribunal in relation to sovereign states is being dealt with by the Appeals Chamber, whose decision on the appeal lodged by Croatia is expected in a few days. Naturally, the Trial Chamber did not want to prejudge the decision. Secondly, the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina has co-operated with the Tribunal and abided by its orders.

The judges therefore, decided to issue a request rather than an order to the Sarajevo government asking them to ensure that the witnesses under its jurisdiction should appear in The Hague as soon as possible. The form is somewhat milder, but the content is the same and is equally binding.

According to sources in Sarajevo, both the government and the named individuals are ready to comply with the Tribunal's requests and the witnesses are expected to appear before the judges in the course of this week.

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