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

Briefly Noted

Compiled by IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 414, 09-Jul-05)
By IWPR

Perisic has pleaded not guilty to thirteen counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.


He is charged with secretly providing military aid from Serbia to Serb forces in Bosnia and Croatia during the conflicts in the Nineties, despite being fully aware that they were committing war crimes.


He is implicated, in particular, in the shelling of civilian targets and the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys following the fall of Srebrenica to Serb forces in July 1995.


Perisic was not present at the hearing having been granted provisional release in June.


In a surprising turn of phrase, the prosecutor, Chester Stamp, prefaced his prediction on how much time the trial would take with the words, “If it comes to trial...”, prompting speculation about possible plea-agreement negotiations with Perisic.


The accused has already cooperated extensively with prosecutors, providing “lengthy statements that are contained on 35 compact discs”, the prosecutor said.


The prosecutor did not make any further reference to a possible agreement, merely stating that he and his colleagues are receiving good cooperation from the defence.


Stamp also told the court that around 200 witnesses and 15 experts would be required to support the accusations concerning Srebrenica in 1995 and the shelling of Sarajevo and Zagreb.


The next status conference is scheduled for November 3 this year.


***


The defense for the former prime minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj announced at a status conference this week they were asking for the conditions of Haradinaj's provisional release to be modified to allow him to engage in politics again.


Haradinaj is charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war in connection with his time as a local commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.


He is alleged to have participated in a brutal campaign in 1998 to abduct, torture and murder dozens of Serbs, Roma and Albanians suspected of cooperating with Serbian government.


In the June 6 decision to release him pending trial at the tribunal, the UN court’s judges prohibited Haradinaj from taking part in any public political activity for 90 days following his release.


But they allowed the defence to apply for the ban to be reexamined after that time, saying that they would take into account the behaviour of the accused, the views of the prosecution and those of the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.


The defense say they will file such a motion in August to allow Haradinaj to take part in politics again. Their request is then likely to be heard in The Hague in mid-September, when the 90 days are up.


The status conference for Haradinaj – who will stand trial alongside with two other former KLA commanders, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj – also heard that their trial could start in January 2007, one and a half year from now and roughly two years after they have been arrested. The trial is now scheduled to last between 12 and 18 months.


***


A somewhat unusual courtroom incident happened this week at the status conference in the case of two Bosnian Serbs, Gojko Jankovic and Radovan Stankovic, as one of the accused refused to enter the courtroom while the other was present.


The two are charged with killings, rapes and torture of Muslims in the eastern Bosnian town of Foca in 1992. According to the lawyer assigned to defend Stankovic, his client was refusing to come to the status conference while he is arguing for his case to be separated from that of Jankovic.


Both men are among the larger group originally accused of crimes, which followed the Bosnian Serb assault on the town of Foca in southeastern Bosnia. Three Bosnian Serb soldiers have already been found guilty of rape and sexual enslavement and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 28 years. Two others committed suicide. One – Dragan Zelenovic – is still at large.


Presiding Judge Alphonse Orie underlined that, according to the court’s rules, persons indicted for the same crimes can be tried together. He did not rule out the possibility that Stankovic's request for a separate trial would be granted, but said that until then, the court intends to continue with preparations for a joint trial.


The indictment against Jankovic and Stankovic alleges that following the take-over of Foca in April 1992 by Serb forces, military police, accompanied by soldiers and paramilitaries, started arresting Muslim and Croat inhabitants. During the arrests many civilians were killed, beaten or subjected to sexual assault. Several women were detained in houses and apartments used as brothels, operated by groups of soldiers, mostly paramilitary.


A former leader of Serb paramilitaries in Foca, Jankovic arrived at the tribunal in March this year. He has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of violations of the laws and customs of war and crimes against humanity in connection with the detention of women and subjecting them to sexual assault.


Stankovic - who faces eight counts of war crimes for enslavement, rape and outrages upon personal dignity - belonged to the Serb elite paramilitary unit Pero Elez, infamous for its record of torture and rapes.


Their case is one that the prosecution has suggested for referral to the local judiciary in Bosnia. Under the tribunal's rules, low and mid-ranked cases can be transferred to the Balkan courts, as a part of the tribunal's completion strategy, which foresees that the initial trials should be finished by 2008.


The defense teams have already filed appeals against the potential referral of the case.