Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Briefly Noted

Compiled by Michael Farquhar in The Hague (TU No 376, 08-Oct-04)
By IWPR

Running on a somewhat unexpected multi-ethnic reconciliation ticket, he secured 2,031 votes in the October 2 vote, losing out to Mirko Lukic of the hardline Serb Democratic Party – co-founded by indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic – who won 2,922 votes.


Zaric, who acted as a Bosnian Serb intelligence officer during the war, surrendered to the Hague tribunal in 1998.


Judges found that he had known about the torture and beatings suffered by Muslim and Croat prisoners in local detention centres. And while the prosecution failed to prove he had ordered the mistreatment of non-Serb civilians, the tribunal ruled that he had given encouragement and moral support to those who had.


He was sentenced to six years imprisonment as “an aider and abettor of persecutions”.


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Lawyers defending former Bosnian army commanders Enver Hadzihasanovic and Amir Kubura will begin arguing their case on October 18, judges confirmed this week.


Having consulted with the defence teams, the judges said they should finish presenting their evidence, which is likely to include testimony by some 100 witnesses, by July 1, 2005.


The two defendants are standing trial together, accused of failing to prevent or punish the murder and mistreatment of Bosnian Croat and Serb civilians and prisoners by men under their command during fighting with Croat forces in central Bosnia in 1993. Some of these subordinates are alleged members of the Islamist volunteers’ unit El-Mujahed, which was under the defendants’ command at the time.


They are also charged with responsibility for their troops’ destruction and plundering of Bosnian Croat and Serb property with no military justification.


While some witnesses to be called over the coming months will be relevant to both cases, in general the presentation of the defence will proceed consecutively, with evidence primarily relevant to the Hadzihasanovic case coming first and that for Kubura following later. IWPR will publish a report on the opening of the defence case next week.


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Hague tribunal president Judge Theodor Meron has appointed a trial chamber to decide whether four Bosnian Serb defendants should be transferred to Bosnia to stand trial in the country’s fledgling war crimes court.


He announced that Judges Alphons Orie, O-Gon Kwon and Kevin Parker will be responsible for assessing whether Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic should be tried in the Bosnian court.


The four are charged with beating, physically abusing and killing Muslim and Croat detainees in the notorious Omarska and Keraterm detention camps.


Judge Meron had earlier appeared sceptical about a prosecution request that he appoint judges to consider the possibility of a transfer, noting that the war crimes chamber of Bosnia’s state court is not due to be ready until January 1. He asked for the prosecution to submit further arguments.


Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte reiterated that the new court is expected to be operational within three months, and argued that it would aid planning both at the tribunal and in Bosnia itself if the possibility of a transfer was reviewed now.


The referral of defendants to courts in the Balkans is an important part of plans to wind down the tribunal by 2010. Another trial chamber is already considering the option of sending Croatian army commanders Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac – charged in connection with the 1993 Medak Pocket operation in Bosnia in which many Serb civilians were killed and others were driven from their homes – to stand trial in Zagreb.


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Queen Beatrix paid her first official visit to the Hague tribunal this week. The Dutch queen was guest of honour at a private meeting on October 5 with President Theodor Meron and several judges, where various important matters relating to the tribunal’s work were discussed.


Queen Beatrix also joined the audience watching the trial of Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik. Accompanied by Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte and Meron, she sat in the observers’ gallery and heard the testimony of prosecution witness Azim Medanovic, a Bosnian Muslim who survived a massacre in the north-eastern Bosnian village of Prhovo, which was destroyed by Serb forces in June 1992.


The Queen was then greeted by tribunal staff who had gathered in the main hall to see her. Meron gave a short speech, thanking her for finding time in her busy schedule to visit the tribunal. Queen Beatrix said she was very impressed with what she had seen and congratulated the staff on their good work.


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At a pre-trial conference this week, defendant Vojislav Seselj – who is representing himself in court – protested that prosecution lawyers had failed to provide him with documents in an appropriate format and, having seen the prosecution witness list, demanded to be allowed to cross-examine every witness.


Seselj said documents sent to him by the prosecution had not been translated from English into Serbian. He also complained that some documents had been passed to him in CD-ROM format rather than on paper.


The defendant – who has requested permission to hire an assistant who is able to use a computer – rejected the CD-ROM documents when they were delivered to his detention unit.


The prosecution maintained that they have fulfilled their obligations to the defendant with regards to the format of the documents passed to him. They played a video showing the defendant responding to a journalist’s questions in English, saying “if [NATO] sends troops [to Bosnia], they will need a lot of coffins” and proclaiming that he was proud to be on former United States diplomat Lawrence Eagleburger’s list of war criminals.


Seselj laughed several times during and after the video was shown in court.


But Agius cut off the prosecution’s line of argument, saying the defendant’s command of English was not in question and that the issue was whether he is entitled to have documents translated into his native language.


The prosecution also used the conference to submit a list of 63 witnesses that they would like to appear before the tribunal. Seselj demanded to cross-examine every one, including 40 additional witnesses who are yet to be deposed.


The prosecution now has three weeks to respond to the defendant’s requests, and Seselj has an equal amount of time to draft his motions in writing.


As in past status conferences, Agius prevented Seselj from speaking on several occasions, saying he was trying to protect him from potentially incriminating himself.


The next status conference for Seselj’s case is due to take place within 120 days.


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Radoslav Brjdanin’s defence counsel John Ackerman submitted an appeal on October 1 against the 32-year sentence handed down to his client for crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions and violations of the laws and customs of war.


Ackerman claims that “all factual findings” used to convict his client “were in error” and that the prosecution “utterly failed” to prove Brjdanin’s guilt. A lengthy appeal process could follow.


Michael Farquhar is an IWPR reporter in The Hague. Carla Sapsford and Merdijana Sadovic contributed to this report.