Briefly Noted

Compiled by Merdijana Sadovic in The Hague (TU No 373, 17-Sep-04)

Briefly Noted

Compiled by Merdijana Sadovic in The Hague (TU No 373, 17-Sep-04)

Wednesday, 9 November, 2005

The cases in question are those of indictee Jadranko Prlic and five other former high-ranking Bosnian Croat political and military leaders.


After the meeting with tribunal president Judge Theodor Meron and Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte last week, Covic was quoted as saying that it was “almost certain” that these cases would be referred to local courts. “One thing is for sure – they will not be tried in The Hague,” Radio Free Europe reported.


But tribunal spokesman Jim Landale denied this on September 15.


“I can categorically state that President Meron did not discuss the referral of any case to any court in the former Yugoslavia,” he said during the tribunal’s regular press briefing.


The Office of The Prosecutor also denied the claims, adding that in its view, the accused are “too high-ranking” to be tried in local courts.


Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic formed the top wartime authority in the self-declared Bosnian Croat state of Herceg-Bosna. They are accused of being a part of a joint criminal enterprise, whose aim was to create ethnically clean areas under their control and to join those areas as part of a “Greater Croatia”.


All six indictees returned home last week after they were granted provisional release by the Hague tribunal’s appeals chamber.


***


Croatian generals Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac will remain in the tribunal’s custody pending trial after their request for provisional release was denied for a second time.


The trial chamber said it was “not persuaded that there has been a material change of circumstances that would justify a change” of its original decision made on April 29, 2004.


Cermak and Markac have been indicted for their alleged role in the 1995 offensive against Croatian Serbs known as Operation Storm, which included massive shelling of civilian areas in and around the Serb-filled town of Knin. Some 200,000 Serbs left their homes as a result of this operation and fled to neighbouring Bosnia and Serbia.


The first motion for their provisional release, filed in March this year, was denied because of the seriousness of the alleged offences and the insufficient cooperation from the government of Croatia, “in particular the failure to deliver [fugitive indictee] General Ante Gotovina to the tribunal”.


The judges also stated the accused could pose a danger to witnesses, especially because of their influential position within Croatian society.


This week the trial chamber explained that “no new arguments have been presented” in the latest motion for provisional release to change its previous decision, adding that the accused still might pose a threat to the victims and witnesses.


As for Croatia’s cooperation with the tribunal, the trial chamber recognised that “it has improved”, but noted “that is a very recent development, in which the tribunal obviously will develop greater confidence in time”.


***


Judges hearing the case of former high-ranking Serb officials Milan Milutinovic and Nikola Sainovic will soon rule on the defence’s request for access to confidential documents relating to the Kosovo indictment served against former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.


Milutinovic, former Serbian president, and Sainovic, former Yugoslav deputy prime minister, have been indicted along with ex-chief of staff of the Yugoslav army Dragoljub Ojdanic for war crimes allegedly committed against Albanian civilians in Kosovo in 1999.


Access to certain confidential documents could be helpful to their defence teams because of similarities between the trio’s indictment and that of Milosevic’s.


Approximately 800,000 Albanian civilians were deported from Kosovo, and several massacres were allegedly committed by Serb forces while the three accused held senior positions in Yugoslav and Serbian governments in 1999. Milutinovic, Sainovic and Ojdanic are charged with individual and command responsibility.


The matter was discussed at a short status conference held this week. The next one will take place in January 2005.


Merdijana Sadovic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.


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