Briefly Noted

By Karen Meirik and Emir Suljagic in The Hague (TU 321, 24 July 2003)

Briefly Noted

By Karen Meirik and Emir Suljagic in The Hague (TU 321, 24 July 2003)

Saturday, 30 April, 2005

For several months now, the prosecutors trying Radoslav Brdjanin, the one-time head of the crisis staff of the Serb autonomous region of Krajina who is accused of genocide, have been trying to get the former Bosnian Serb premier Milorad Dodik to testify in court.


Dodik, however, repeatedly refused to respond to their requests.


Last week, when chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte visited Banja Luka, she served the Bosnian Serb authorities with a subpoena for the former prime minsiter.


Dodik is expected to testify in The Hague on July 31, the day before the prosecution is to wind up its case and deliver its closing arguments.


The prosecution had tried to establish Brdjanin’s responsibility for the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Bosanska Krajina and believes that Dodik might possess critical evidence of Brdjanins’s involvement.


Whether he will provide that evidence to the court remains unclear.


During his term as Bosnian Serb premier, a position he held from 1998-2001, Dodik said he planned to cooperate with the tribunal and even pledged to extradite war crimes suspects on his territory.


However, he never did anything of the sort. To the contrary, he seemed to take every opportunity he could to stymie the tribunal’s work. In 1999, Dodik stated that the tribunal’s indictment against Bosnian Serb general Momir Talic was “unfounded” and called the commander a personal friend.


Then, in December 2002, Dodik was called as a defence witness in the trial of Biljana Plavsic, former Bosnian Serb president. During his testimony, he praised Plavsic for her efforts to alleviate the misery of Bosnian Serb refugees and her cooperation with the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement.


Given that Brdjanin was initially named in the same indictment as Dodik’s friend Talic, and given his past record testifying before the tribunal, it seems unlikely that the former prime minister will provide a smoking gun on the eve of the prosecution wrapping up the case.


And even if he does, it’s not clear that the public will be aware of it. Most of the Brdjanin trial of late has been held in closed session. Prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann could not confirm whether Dodik’s testimony will be held in public session.


UNMIK SAYS KOSOVO SUSPECT IS A FLIGHT RISK


When Fatmir Limaj, a regional KLA commander, appeared before the tribunal charged with war crimes for imprisoning and killing 21 Albanian collaborators and Serbs in a prison camp in Lapusnik, he appealed to the judges to let him out on provisional release and assured them that he did not pose a flight risk.


He also suggested that the UN Administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, which governs the province would come to his aid, vouch for his character and assured the tribunal that he did not pose a danger to potential witnesses.


In considering Limaj’s request, the court asked whether or not the head of UNMIK, Michael Steiner, would provide a guarantee.


When Steiner left as the head of UNMIK to take a position with the UN in Geneva in mid-July, the decision fell to his deputies and on July 21, Limaj got some the bad news.


Paul Coffey, UNMIK’s de facto justice minister, wrote a letter to the tribunal saying that it could not guarantee that Limaj would not flee or that he would not intimidate witnesses were he released.


"Given Kosovo's geographic situation, the limited resources available to UNMIK to provide comprehensive policing in Kosovo's territory, it would be relatively easy (for him) to depart Kosovo," Coffey said.


Coffey added that witness intimidation also remained a serious risk and that a campaign of intimidation against potential witnesses is already underway in Kosovo.


"Witness intimidation is a common occurrence in Kosovo and a major impediment to establishment of the rule of law," he wrote.


Although the identities of people who threatened the potential witness in the case against Limaj are not known, Coffey said that based on the experience of his department in cases like this "pre-trial detention" is sought and usually obtained.


Karen Meirik is a freelance Dutch journalist and Emir Suljagic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.


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