Briefly Noted

Compiled by Merdijana Sadovic in The Hague (TU No 372, 10-Sep-04)

Briefly Noted

Compiled by Merdijana Sadovic in The Hague (TU No 372, 10-Sep-04)

Wednesday, 9 November, 2005

Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic surrendered to the tribunal earlier this year, after the indictment against them had been made public by the Office of The Prosecutor.


The six 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 to “politically and militarily subjugate, permanently remove and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats” who lived in the areas under their control, “and to join these areas as part of a ‘Greater Croatia’”.


The trial chamber in charge of their case had approved their provisional release on July 30 this year, but the prosecution appealed against this decision three days later.


Prosecutor Kenneth Scott argued at the time that the six once powerful indictees might still be in a position to intimidate victims or witnesses, or could refuse to return to the tribunal when summoned.


On September 8 the appeals chamber rejected the prosecution’s appeal and the six were granted provisional release.


***


The Hague tribunal will be able to try the radical Serbian politician Vojislav Seselj for the crimes he allegedly committed in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, the court’s appeal chamber decided this week.


The chamber, presided over by Judge Theodor Meron, reversed the ruling of their colleagues assigned to the Seselj case, in which they said the court had no jurisdiction over the crimes committed in Vojvodina.


“In public speeches he called for the expulsion of Croat civilians from parts of the Vojvodina region in Serbia and thus instigated his followers and the local authorities to engage in a persecution campaign against the local Croat population,” the indictment reads.


In its ruling from June this year, the trial chamber accepted Seselj’s arguments that since there was no armed conflict in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, the Hague tribunal had no right to try anyone in connection with events there.


But in an order made public this week, the appeals chamber ruled differently.


“There can be situations where an armed conflict is ongoing in one state and ethnic civilians of one of the warring sides, resident in another state, become victims of a widespread and systematic attack in response to that armed conflict,” the judges said, leaving it up to the prosecution to try and establish this connection.


Whether the prosecutors succeed in this, the judges said, “is … to be determined at trial”.


Seselj has also been charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war in Bosnia and Croatia.


***


The trial of Bosnian Serb officers Vidoje Blagojevic and Dragan Jokic resumed this week after the summer recess. But the hearings – which were scheduled to last around four hours - ended in only 30 minutes after one of the accused refused to take the stand.


Vidoje Blagojevic - the former Bosnian Serb commander of the Bratunac brigade, on trial for his role in the Srebrenica massacres – refused to give a statement in his defence in the court.


The refusal, he said, was a sign of protest against his lawyer, Michael Karnavas, whom the defendant has persistently denounced during the trial. Blagojevic insisted Karnavas was an inappropriate person to represent him, and accused him of slander.


The judges said they accepted Blagojevic’s decision to turn down his right to give a statement at his trial “with regret”.


Blagojevic has been charged with complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. The trial chamber dropped part of the charges against him earlier this year, stating that the prosecutors failed to prove the accused’s personal involvement in planning, ordering and instigating the massacres. They kept the charges of complicity to genocide and all the charges under command responsibility.


The trial continues next week.


***


In their closing arguments presented this week, Hague tribunal prosecutors asked for a sentence of 13 to 15 years imprisonment for the former Yugoslav army general Pavle Strugar, charged with the shelling of Croatian city of Dubrovnik in 1991.


During the trial, which began last December, the prosecution tried to prove that Strugar - who commanded the Yugoslav army’s second operational group in December 1991 - deliberately left heavy weapons in the hands of units over which he knew he had no control, and which had “abused [such power] in the past”.


Such errors in the exercise of the command resulted in the December 6 attack on Dubrovnik, the prosecutors said.


The consequences of these attacks were civilian casualties and the destruction of UNESCO-protected sites in medieval town on Croatia’s southern coast.


***


The Hague tribunal made public this week a judge’s order to the Banja Luka authorities requiring them to hand over minutes of all meetings held by the Bosnian Serb supreme command during a three year period from November 1992 to 1995.


The order was issued by Judge Alphons Orie last week, and gives the Bosnian Serb authorities one month to comply.


The minutes requested are relevant to the cases against the tribunal’s two most wanted indictees, Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic.


The prosecutor has requested these documents several times since 2001, but Republika Srpska has provided none to date, although Judge Orie noted that they “have already had the time required for identifying, locating and producing the documents in question”.


Merdijana Sadovic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.


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