Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Briefly Noted

By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 404, 29-Apr-05)
By IWPR

Prosecutors argued at the April 26 hearing that since Delic's case isn't due to go to court until the second half of 2007, near the time when the tribunal is scheduled to close down, the accused might be tempted to "go into hiding or go on the run".


But in response, Judge Patrick Robinson expressed surprise that there were already plans for the accused to spend over two and a half years in detention pending trial. And he admitted to being "a little bit embarrassed to be a part of a system where I would have to acknowledge that".


"I know that other accused have spent two and a half years or even more in detention," he said, "but I don't think that was ever acknowledged at the beginning of the case as it is now."


Judge Robinson said this would be "a fairly significant factor" in the trial chamber's decision as to whether to grant Delic provisional release.


Delic is the most senior Bosnian army officer ever indicted by the Hague tribunal. He is charged with responsibility for murders, rapes and other crimes allegedly committed by foreign Islamic "mujahedin" volunteers who fought ethnic Serb and Croat forces in central Bosnia between 1993 and 1995.


Delic surrendered to the UN court 12 days after the indictment against him was confirmed on February 16 this year.


At the hearing this week, defence counsel Stephane Bourgon insisted that if released, his client would "return [to The Hague] for his trial and would not pose any danger to the victims". He also argued that during his time as chief of the Bosnian army, Delic always cooperated with the Hague tribunal.


Finally, Bourgon announced that his client expects his fourth book – focusing "on the creation and development of the Bosnian army" – to be published shortly, and would therefore appreciate the opportunity to tour Bosnia to promote it.


Bourgon described Delic, who obtained a PhD last December, as now "a man of science".


That argument apparently failed to impress. "I'm not sure promoting a book is an appropriate activity for someone on provisional release," Judge Robinson said.


The trial chamber will now consider the matter before coming to a decision.


***


Prosecutors have filed contempt of court charges against three Croatian journalists and the former head of the Croatian intelligence service for revealing the names and testimonies of witnesses who have appeared under protection during Hague tribunal proceedings.


Prosecutors say former intelligence chief Markica Rebic provided Ivica Marijacic, editor of the Zagreb weekly Hrvatski List, with the identity of a protected witness who gave evidence in the trial of Tihomir Blaskic in December 1997.


He is also said to have given Marijacic copies of the statement the witness made to prosecutors, as well as a transcript of the testimony the witness gave in a court session that was closed to the public.


Marijacic is alleged to have gone on to publish a November 2004 article entitled "World Exclusive – The First in the World to Publish The Secret Document Which Shows Carla Del Ponte's Plot against Croatia". The article apparently included an interview with Rebic himself.


A second indictment concerns Stjepan Seselj, publisher of the Zagreb weekly Hrvatsko Slovo, and Domagoj Margetic, ex-editor of the same publication.


Prosecutors say in November 2004, Hrvatsko Slovo printed the identity and parts of the testimony of a witness who also appeared under protective measures in the same trial in March 1998.


Having been ordered to cease publishing such material, Margetic apparently wrote to the tribunal announcing that he didn't recognize the court's authority and would not obey the order. He allegedly then went on to publish further excerpts of the witness' testimony in a December edition of his new publication, Novo Hrvatsko Slovo.


Margetic faces two counts of contempt of the tribunal, while the remaining three indictees each face one count of the same charge. Contempt of the tribunal is punishable with up to seven years in prison and a 100,000 euro fine.


Tihomir Blaskic was released from tribunal custody last summer after the appeals chamber overturned some of his most serious convictions.


He was originally given a 45-year prison sentence in March 2000 for ordering the persecution of Muslim civilians in his post as a wartime commander of ethnic Croat forces in Bosnia.


***


Prosecutors this week concurred with defence counsel that the 13-year prison sentence handed down to former president of the Republic of the Serbian Krajina, RSK, Milan Babic last June should be reduced.


Babic was originally charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war for crimes including persecutions, murder, cruel treatment and the destruction of villages.


But under a plea agreement signed in January 2004, in which he admitted responsibility for persecutions and agreed to cooperate fully with tribunal prosecutors, the remaining charges were dropped and the prosecution recommended an 11-year jail term.


In the event, the trial chamber judges decided that the recommended sentence was too short.


Babic had originally contacted the tribunal of his own accord in October 2001, after learning that he was named as a co-perpetrator in the case against former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.


He subsequently gave comprehensive testimony against Milosevic, speaking in court over a period of some 12 days – at first as a protected witness, then eventually dropping the measures and revealing his identity to the public.


At the appeals hearing this week, prosecutors said they disagreed with eight out of 11 grounds of appeal put forward by Babic's defence counsel.


But they agreed that the trial chamber had failed to give appropriate weight to evidence that Babic played only a limited role in the crimes in question; that judges had been wrong not to take into account his good character prior to that period; and that they also ought to have taken into consideration his conduct since.


If these arguments are accepted, they argued, Babic's sentence ought to be reduced in line with their initial recommendation.


Given a chance to speak at the end of the hearing, the appellant insisted that all that mattered to him was the security of his family, who now live under witness protection.


"This is the only thing that is important to me," he told judges, "nothing else but that."


***


Defence counsel representing the former prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, have written to Hague tribunal judges to formally request that he be released pending trial.


In the April 21 submission, Haradinaj's defence team – made up of Professor Conor Gearty, Ben Emmerson QC, Rodney Dixon and Michael O'Reilly – argue that their client's "exceptional personal and political reputation" and cooperation with the tribunal to date ought to count in his favour.


They also point out that Haradinaj complied with tribunal conditions during a recent three-day release, when he was allowed to return to Kosovo to attend the funeral of his murdered younger brother.


The lawyers' submission includes a written promise by United Nations, UN, Special Representative in Kosovo Soren Jessen-Peterson that "[the UN Mission in Kosovo] is willing... to provide specific guarantees that may be requested [regarding Haradinaj's return to The Hague to stand trial], to the extent possible".


Also attached are letters, newspaper articles and press releases by Jessen-Peterson, former commander of the NATO-led force in Kosovo Klaus Reinhardt, former British foreign secretary Robin Cook, Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova and others, praising Haradinaj for his integrity and his decision to surrender to the tribunal immediately after he found out he had been indicted.


Prosecutors will now have a chance to respond to the motion before judges come to a decision.


***


The Hague tribunal will hand four war crimes cases relating to the 2001 civil war in Macedonia over to the country's domestic justice system, it was announced this week.


The crimes in question were allegedly committed by members of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, which was involved in fighting government security forces at the time.


They include the alleged kidnapping and torture of employees of the Mavrovo Construction Company, 12 murders in the town of Tetovo and the closure of a dam which cut off running water to the town of Kumanovo for weeks.


The decision to refer the cases to the local court system in Macedonia was announced during a two-day visit to The Hague by the country's justice minister, Meri Mladenovska-Gjorgievska, which began on April 25.


The move is in line with plans for the UN court to finish holding trials in 2008 and to shut down completely in 2010.


Hague prosecutors have only ever issued one indictment relating to the conflict in Macedonia. That case saw former interior minister Ljube Boskoski and former policeman Johan Tarculovski charged with an attack on an ethnic Albanian village in which seven people were allegedly murdered and many more detained and beaten.


Boskoski and Tarculovski have pleaded not guilty and are currently awaiting trial.


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