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During that period, Enver Hadzihasanovic was in charge of the Bosnian army’s Third Corps. Amir Kubura commanded the corps’ Seventh Muslim Mountain Brigade.
Prosecutors say their troops committed murders, abused prisoners and destroyed Croat homes and churches. Some of the crimes are blamed on mujahideen, foreign fighters who travelled to Bosnia to help defend its Muslim population and were allegedly incorporated into the Bosnian army.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Daryl Mundis noted that both accused had been professional military officers before the war broke out in Bosnia, and were well aware of their duties as commanders. Hadzihasanovic ought to receive 20 years’ imprisonment for his failure to carry out these duties, he said, and Kubura should face a ten-year sentence.
Beginning their own closing statements this week, defence lawyers urged judges to acquit the two men.
Stephane Bourgon, representing Hadzihasanovic, noted the chaotic situation in Bosnia at the time and the difficulties this imposed on army commanders trying to maintain order. He also argued that the mujahideen were not part of the Bosnian army and that the accused had no control over their actions.
Judges have given the go-ahead for at least six Serbian politicians and police and military generals to stand trial together for war crimes allegedly committed in Kosovo in the first half of 1999.
Milan Milutinovic, Nikola Sainovic and Dragoljub Ojdanic – originally indicted along with Slobodan Milosevic in May 1999 – and Nebojsa Pavkovic, Vladimir Lazarevic and Sreten Lukic – charged in October 2003 – are already awaiting trial and are expected to face joint proceedings by early next year.
The new combined indictment - which prosecutors must now submit by August 15 - will also include Vlastimir Djordjevic, who is still on the run and thought to be hiding in Russia.
The seven men are charged with seeking to consolidate Belgrade’s control over Kosovo through a campaign of intimidation, murders and mass expulsions of its ethnic Albanian civilian population.
Only one of the accused, Lukic, had objected to the proposal for joint proceedings. Lawyers for Lukic argued that the two sets of indictees were at different stages in preparing their defence cases, and that such a large joint trial would also be long and difficult to manage.
But the chamber, headed by Presiding Judge Patrick Robinson, concluded that there was no reason to think joint proceedings would prejudice the rights of the accused to a fair trial.
Judges also noted that a combined trial would avoid duplication of evidence and would minimise hardship to witnesses, who might otherwise have to be called upon to testify in each of the separate cases.
The Hague tribunal judges decided on July 8 to refer to the Bosnian judiciary the case against two Bosnian Serbs accused of torturing, enslaving and murdering the inmates of the notorious KP Dom prison in Foca in 1992.
Despite their lawyers’ objections, Mitar Rasevic and Savo Todovic are now likely to become one of the first Hague tribunal indictees to face trial in the newly formed Bosnian War Crimes Chamber at the country’s State Court. The chamber, which was officially opened this spring, has been formed with the support of the Hague tribunal, whose officials also helped train its professional staff.
During the referral hearing held in May, the lawyers for the two argued their clients would not receive a fair trial in Sarajevo, as many of their defence witnesses would be wary of traveling to the capital, fearing possible harassment or even arrest. They proposed that the two be tried instead in neighbouring Serbia – a possibility theoretically foreseen by the court’s rules.
But the judges dismissed these arguments in their final decision, concluding that the Bosnian laws “provide an adequate basis to ensure… a fair trial.” The judges added that the recent agreement between the tribunal’s prosecutor’s office and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, which took upon itself to monitor the trials of the accused referred from the Hague to the Bosnian state court, gives further assurances that the expectations of a fair trial would be met.
Should the trial despite all of this still turn out less than fair, the judges added, the referral order may always be revoked by the tribunal, and the case returned to The Hague.
On the same day, the same bench issued a separate decision in another referral case, this time keeping the accused in The Hague. The judges ruled that the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army Romanija Corps Dragomir Milosevic (no relation to Slobodan Milosevic) should not be sent to the Sarajevo court due to the severity of charges against him.
Milosevic is accused of running the last phase of the shelling and sniping campaign against Sarajevo, from mid-1994 until the peace agreement in November 1995. His predecessor, General Stanislav Galic was sentenced to 20 years in prison for running the same campaign between 1992 and 1994.
“The Referral Bench … concludes that the gravity of the crimes charged and the level of responsibility of the accused, particularly when they are considered in combination, requires that the present case be tried at the Tribunal,” the judges wrote in their decision.
The court’s completion strategy foresees that only the cases of low and mid-ranking perpetrators would be referred to the local judiciaries, and the high-ranking ones would be tried in The Hague.
Ultra-nationalist Serbian politician Vojislav Seselj, currently awaiting trial in The Hague on war crimes charges, has been slapped with a two-month communication ban as punishment for revealing the identity of a protected witness, it has been revealed.
Since the decision was issued by the tribunal’s deputy registrar on June 23, Seselj has only been allowed to communicate with his legal counsel and with diplomatic and consular staff.
Prosecutors had apparently expressed concern that Seselj’s unmasking of the witness during a telephone conversation on June 18 could compromise his or her safety.
The deputy registrar noted in the decision that this is not the first time Seselj has abused his communications privileges, and that the latest incident might be serious enough to count as contempt of court.
The latter offence is punishable with up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of 100,000 euro.
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