Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
In the meantime, Judge O-Gon Kwon said, prosecutors have one week to submit minor amendments to the indictment.
Halilovic is charged with responsibility for the killings of 63 ethnic Croats - all but one of who were allegedly civilians - in the Bosnian villages of Grabovica and Uzdol in September 1993.
The deaths occurred whilst the Bosnian army was involved in a drive to regain territory from Croat forces and end the blockade of Mostar. Prosecutors argue that Halilovic was in charge of the operation and failed to prevent the murders or punish those responsible for them
Prosecution lawyers said that they will call 38 witnesses to speak in court, with a further eight supplying written testimony.
The trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik has been put on hold following the withdrawal of Judge Amin El-Mahdi.
Judge El-Mahdi failed to be re-elected to his Hague post in voting last year. And since his current mandate expires in November 2005, some time before the Krajisnik trial is likely to end, he chose to resign from the trial in December.
The remaining judges ruled on December 16 that the case should carry on with a new judge replacing the Egyptian judge, despite defence lawyers’ submission that part of the trial should be repeated to allow the new member of the chamber to hear first-hand the testimony of the twelve most important witnesses.
It is now down to tribunal president Judge Theodor Meron to assign a new judge to the trial, who will then have to familiarise him or herself with all the evidence heard up to this point. So far just over one third of prosecution witnesses have testified in the case.
Krajisnik still has the option of going to the appeals chamber to try to get parts of the trial repeated.
Retired Croatian general Ante Gotovina, wanted for war crimes by the Hague tribunal, has offered to turn himself in if his case is heard in Zagreb rather than in the UN court, local media reports.
Croatian publication Vecernji List published extracts from a letter apparently sent by Gotovina’s lawyer Luka Misetic to Jean Asselborn, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.
In it, Misetic says Gotovina is willing to accept domestic proceedings as a “compromise solution”, and goes on to argue that “there is no better way for Croatia to prove its European values than to conduct war crimes trials by itself.”
Gotovina disappeared in 2001 after the Hague tribunal issued an indictment against him for crimes committed during a 1995 operation to retake the Krajina region of Croatia.
Prosecutors claim that Gotovina and others were involved in an effort to force ethnic Serbs from the region and keep them away by destroying and plundering their homes. It is also alleged that Croatian forces murdered at least 150 Serbs during the operation.
Zagreb has been under pressure from the EU, amongst others, to arrest Gotovina, but officials insist he is not in Croatia.
There is likely to be a further wait before the final round of indictments processed by prosecutors at the Hague tribunal are made public.
Prosecution spokesperson Florence Hartman told IWPR that the final batch of indictments had been submitted before Christmas, in time for the end-of-year deadline for signing off on new indictments. But she was unable to say how many there were.
Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said last year that she planned to sign six new indictments before the deadline passed.
Before the new indictments are issued, a panel – made up of the tribunal’s president, its vice president and the judges who preside over each of its three trial chambers – will have to rule that the potential indictees are senior enough to be dealt with by the UN court, rather than being tried in domestic courts in the Balkans.
Assuming they pass this test, the indictments are then reviewed by judges again – along with supporting material – to ensure there are sufficient grounds for trying each potential case.
Given the common practice of keeping indictments under seal until an arrest has been made, it is quite possible that even once this process is complete, the identities of the new indictees won’t be made public until they are resident in the UN detention unit in The Hague.
In the meantime, speculation continues as to who these people will be. On Tuesday Serbia’s human rights minister Rasim Ljajic – also president of the country’s council for cooperation with the tribunal – claimed to know that one will be Serbian, one will be from Kosovo and one from Macedonia, with the remaining three probably from Croatia and Bosnia.
The halt on issuing new indictments fits into plans for the tribunal to complete trials by 2008 and shut down completely by 2010.
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