Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
The July decision – which came amidst speculation that there was a deal struck to negotiate the surrender of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic to the Hague tribunal – has caused an uproar among liberals in Serbia, who stressed that the two still wielded lots of influence back home and could seriously interfere with the course of justice.
In the appeal, the prosecution chiefly argues that the trial chamber wrongly found that the two would reappear for trial after their release, saying that they never actually cooperated with the prosecution as the trial chamber said.
The trial chamber also undervalued the seriousness of the crimes the are alleged to have committed, which included “some of the most serious crimes against humanity”, according to the appeal.
The prosecution also says that the trial chamber may have placed too much weight on guarantees given by the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro that the two would appear for trial when summoned. The appeal says that Serbia and Montenegro have “persistently failed to cooperate with the International Tribunal for many years”.
Neither can the suspects be trusted outside of their cells, say the prosecution, noting that the trial chamber minimised the danger they may pose to victims and witnesses. Contrary to the trial chamber’s findings, the prosecutors say that Simatovic unlawfully influenced the testimony of a witness in the Milosevic trial.
Judge Theodor Meron, president of the Hague tribunal, has appointed judges to decide whether former Bosnian Serb soldier Radovan Stankovic should be transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina for trial.
This is the third tribunal case to be officially considered for referral to local courts in former Yugoslavia.
He announced that judges Alphons Orie, O-Gon Kwon and Kevin Parker will be tasked with determining whether Stankovic should appear before a specialist war crimes court due to be up and running in Sarajevo by January 1995.
Stankovic, who was arrested in July 2002, is charged in connection with a Serb attack on the town of Foca and its surrounding villages in 1992.
It is alleged that following the assault on the town, homes were burnt and many local Muslims detained. Prosecutors say female detainees were repeatedly raped and some forced to cook and clean in Serb soldiers’ houses while being subjected to regular sexual assaults.
Stankovic is charged with four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war and four counts of crimes against humanity, including rape and enslavement.
Referring defendants to courts in the Balkans is a crucial part of plans to wind down the Hague tribunal over coming years. Judges are already considering whether to send four other Bosnian Serbs – Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic – for trial in Sarajevo, and whether the case of Croatian army commanders Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac should be transferred to Zagreb.
The upper house of the Bosnian parliament has passed a package of laws which will pave the way for senior war crimes trials to be carried out in the country’s domestic justice system.
A specialist war crimes court is due to begin holding trials in Sarajevo in January 2005.
Besides amendments to the law defining how this court will function, the new package includes provision for the transfer of cases there from the Hague tribunal and the use of evidence from tribunal proceedings in domestic trials. (see: Bosnia: War Crimes Trials Process Stalled, TU No 376, October 8, 2004)
The proposals were rejected by upper house representatives in late September but have since been amended.
The amended package has also been deemed acceptable by the high representative of international community in Bosnia.
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