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Alterations to Rule 11 bis of the tribunal’s Rules and Procedures of Evidence will allow tribunal president Judge Theodor Meron to appoint one or more “referral benches”, made up of three judges, to decide whether any given indictment should be dealt with by another court.
The procedures followed by such a referral bench will be identical to those applicable to the three-member trial chamber currently tasked with such decisions, the only difference being that the role of the referral bench will be limited to this one task.
Referring lower-level cases to domestic courts in the Balkans is part of the tribunal’s completion strategy, which envisages the end of all trials in 2008 and the closure of the court in 2010.
A second amendment to Rule 124 of the Rules and Procedures of Evidence alters the range of court officials involved in deciding whether to issue a pardon or commutation.
Under the old rules, this was the responsibility of the tribunal’s president in consultation with the permanent judges.
Under the new system, the president will consult with the vice president, the presiding judges of the trial chambers and any permanent judges who were members of the sentencing chamber and who are still working at the tribunal when the issue arises.
The amendments were decided at the 31st plenary session of the tribunal on February 11. They will come into force on February 22.
Judges have entered a not guilty plea to 18 counts of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions on behalf of Savo Todovic, accused of acting as deputy commander of the Foca Kazneno-Popravni Dom prison.
The decision was made at a February 17 hearing after Todovic, who last month exercised his right to postpone entering a plea for 30 days, still declined to do so.
Prosecutors say during his time working at the facility Todovic was responsible for selecting non-Serb prisoners to be beaten, interrogated, used for forced labour and killed.
The appeals chamber sentenced another man, Milorad Krnojelac, to 15 years in prison in 2003 for crimes committed while he was commander at the same facility.
A third accused, Mitar Rasevic, is currently residing in the UN detention unit, accused of being commander of the guards at the prison. Prosecutors have asked that his case be referred to the justice system in Bosnia and Hercegovina.
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