By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 411, 17-Jun-05)
By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 411, 17-Jun-05)
The motion, dated June 10, was made public only five days later. The OTP has also signalled its intent to file a further motion asking for the indictments against the accused Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara, Drago Nikolic, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Zdravko Tolimir, Radivoje Miletic, Milan Gvero, Vinko Pandurevic and Milorad Trbic to be amended and joined into one single indictment.
The indictees are accused of involvement in the murders of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys following the fall of the UN safe area of Srebrenica, which was overrun by the Bosnian Serb army under General Ratko Mladic in July 1995.
Many of the accused have only recently arrived in The Hague following a wave of “voluntary surrenders” from Serbia and Montenegro earlier this year, and have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. The proceedings are in the very early pre-trial stages and little time would be lost if the trial chamber agrees to join the indictments against them.
Prosecutor Peter McCloskey argues that this would be in the interests of the trial chamber in four ways. It would avoid duplication of evidence, minimise the hardship of victims and witnesses who may otherwise be called to give the same evidence in numerous trials, be “in the general interests of judicial economy”, and ensure consistency in the eventual verdicts.
The OTP believes the cases of the nine accused are eligible to be merged into a single indictment under Rule 48 of the tribunal’s statute.
“The crime base of the [accused] are identical,” the motion reads. “All are charged with individual responsibility ... with participating in the same joint criminal enterprise, the common purpose of which was to ethnically cleanse the Bosnian Muslim population from the Srebrenica and Zepa areas.”
While the logistics of trying several defendants in the UN court’s limited space have not yet been dealt with, the tribunal’s statute places no limit on the number of accused who can be tried together.
Initial appearances were made in two separate contempt of court cases at the Hague tribunal this week.
Hvratski List editor-in-chief Ivica Marijacic and Markica Rebic, former head of the Croatian Security Information Service, pleaded not guilty to the charge of contempt of court on June 14.
The two are charged with revealing the identity of a protected witness who testified in closed session during the trial of Tihomir Blaskic in December 1997. The information was allegedly included in an article authored by Marijacic and featuring an interview with Rebic.
Later that day, Stejpan Seselj and Domagoj Margetic – publisher and editor of the Hrvatsko Slovo newspaper respectively - was also heard in courtroom number one.
The indictment against Seselj and Margetic alleges that in November 2004, they started to publish transcripts from the testimony of a protected witness who appeared in the Blaskic case in March 1998. They deny the charges.
Croatian general Blaskic was released from custody in August 2004 after the appeals chamber slashed the 45-year prison sentence that had been handed down in March 2000 after new evidence came to light.
No dates have been set for further appearances in the contempt cases, or for any eventual trial.
Srebrenica accused Ljubisa Beara made a further pre-trial appearance before Judge Iain Bonomy of Scotland this week.
The judge warned prosecutor Peter McCloskey that the prospect of a motion to join the Beara case to several other Srebrenica cases must not be allowed to slow down the trial, and told him to proceed as if no such motion existed.
During the course of the conference, McCloskey noted that the prosecution has been in possession of the “Drina archive” – which apparently contains documents relevant to the events at Srebrenica – since December 2004, and needs time to study it.
“This is a collection that is important for everyone,” he said. “These are documents that were authored by all of the accused. I have to be able to have time to digest this archive.”
A further status conference for the Beara case will be held in September.
Lawyers for former Bosnian Muslim commander Sefer Halilovic have been granted their request for the start of the defence phase of the trial to be postponed.
On June 13, the trial chamber led by Presiding Judge Lui Daqun granted the defence motion to defer opening their case until June 24. The lawyers were also granted permission to hold a pre-defence conference on June 23, and file its witness list no later than June 17.
The delay was requested because lawyers were still in the process of interviewing potential witnesses, many of whom lived in Bosnia and Hercegovina and beyond, and wished to have more time to carry out investigative matters.
Halilovic is charged with one count of violations of the laws and customs of war – murder – in relation to the deaths of 23 Bosnian Croat civilians in the village of Grabovica, and a further 29 civilians and one prisoner of war in the village of Uzdol. The indictment alleges that, as commander, he did not take effective measures to prevent these deaths, or to punish the perpetrators after.