Briefly Noted

By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 413, 01-Jul-05)

Briefly Noted

By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 413, 01-Jul-05)

Friday, 18 November, 2005

In their written decision made public on July 1, the judges cited the "intensity of feeling" that the case had provoked as a reason to agree with the prosecutor's request to withdraw her earlier proposal for the trial to be held locally.


The decision follows months of judicial wrangling and political grandstanding between the governments of Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro, who had each argued that their country would be best suited to hear the case.


Three former Yugoslav army officers - Veselin Sljivancanin, Mile Radic and Mile Mrksic - are accused of involvement in the massacre of 264 Croat civilians in 1991, close to the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar.


They are accused of overseeing the process of rounding up and moving the victims from a hospital near Vukovar to a nearby farm at Ovcara, despite knowing, or having a reasonable suspicion of, what was going to happen to them. All three have entered not guilty pleas.


***


Hague tribunal prosecutors announced this week they would be seeking to expand the indictment against the former Bosnian army commander-in-chief Rasim Delic by adding three new charges.


Delic already faces four counts of murder, cruel treatment and rape in connection with crimes allegedly committed by the El Mujahed unit of foreign Islamic volunteers - also known as mujahedin - in the area of Ozren and Vozuca in central Bosnia between 1993 and 1995.


A group of 24 Bosnian Croat civilians and soldiers were allegedly killed by the foreign volunteers, and Serb and Croat prisoners were allegedly held by them in camps in the area. According to the indictment, even though Delic knew that the soldiers concerned had a "propensity to commit crimes" and “[he] failed to take the proper steps to prevent the crimes that occurred".


Speaking at a status conference called to discuss progress in the preparation of Delic's trial this week, prosecutor Daryl Mundis didn't specify what the additional charges may refer to. He said, however, that the indictment could be amended by the end of September.


Bosnian lawyer Vasvija Vidovic, currently lead counsel for Srebrenica wartime commander Naser Oric, has been appointed a permanent counsel for Delic.


Delic was recently granted provisional release pending trial, which is not expected to begin before the second half of 2007.


***


Nebojsa Pavkovic, the Yugoslav army, or VJ, general who, after much wrangling surrendered to the Hague tribunal just two months ago, has applied for provisional release, a document released this week in the Hague appeared to suggest.


The prosecution’s response to the release request suggests that Pavkovic surrendered voluntarily to the tribunal within three days of receiving the indictment.


Pavkovic was indicted by the tribunal prosecutors for the crimes against Albanian civilians that the units subordinate to him committed during the 1999 military campaign in Kosovo. During the time covered by his indictment, Pavkovic was the chief of the VJ’s 3rd Army, under whose command all the units fighting in Kosovo came.


His indictment was filed in October 2003 - almost one and a half year before he first appeared in front of tribunal judges in April this year. In the meantime, he was living in Belgrade, stating publicly he had no intention of surrendering to the UN court, and declaring that doing so would be a cowardly admission of guilt.


The prosecution argue that the general’s refusal to surrender as well as his “hostile and aggressive attitude towards the tribunal” mean there is a high risk that he would not re-appear for trial if released.


To illustrate this, the prosecutor provided over 20 pages of press cuttings pre-dating Pavkovic’s arrival in Holland in which the general is quoted as saying he would “never be taken to the Hague tribunal alive”, and that he would “never surrender” to the court.


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