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

Briefly Noted

Compiled by Alison Freebairn in The Hague (TU No 363, 18-Jun-04)
By IWPR

The change to rule 11bis notes that, as of June 17, a trial can be referred to any state "having jurisdiction and being willing and adequately prepared to accept such a case".

This will apply to indictees already in tribunal custody - or to those still on the run.

Tribunal observers believe that the change in the law will speed up the process and will enable faster processing of fugitive suspects - for example, if an indictee was to be apprehended in Germany, the legal system of that country would be able to hold the trial if it so wished.

Time is of the essence in The Hague. In 2003, the UN Security Council rubber-stamped the tribunal's completion strategy, according to which all investigative work would be concluded by the turn of the year, remaining trials finished by the end of 2008 and all other business brought to a close within a further two years.

This would only be possible, however, if the tribunal concentrated on "the most senior leaders suspected of being most responsible" for the crimes committed across the former Yugoslavia.

But with two of the highest profile accused - former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and military leader General Ratko Mladic - still at large, and with the many indictments still under official seal, the completion strategy may come under increasing strain.

Localisation of the process - where trials are held in former Yugoslav where the war crimes were allegedly committed - has had mixed success to date, and concerns are still being raised over certain nations' retention of the death penalty and ability to hold fair trials.

Judges have rejected a prosecution request to reduce a charge against Vidoje Blagojevic from "complicity to genocide" to the lesser offense of "aiding and abetting genocide".

The defendant's counsel Stephane Bourgon had argued that his client would be unfairly prejudiced by such a move coming more than half way through the trial proceedings, and that his rights to a fair hearing would be infringed.

Presiding judge Liu Daqun dismissed the prosecution's proposed amendment, arguing that it was not in the interests of justice. The trial continues.

The tribunal has transferred Dragan Obrenovic to a Norwegian prison, where he is to serve his 17-year sentence for crimes committed following the fall of Srebrenica.

The Bosnian Serb Zvornik brigade officer was responsible for the area in which the killings took place. The trial chamber heard that he had been the acting commander on the two days when more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered.

The original indictment charged him with crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity, but he later pleaded guilty to the less serious charge of persecution on political, racial and religious grounds, and was sentenced to 17 years in prison in December 2003.

Alison Freebairn is an IWPR editor in The Hague.

More IWPR's Global Voices