Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 32: Last Week in The Hague (June 9-14, 1997)

Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 32: Last Week in The Hague (June 9-14, 1997)

Saturday, 14 June, 1997

The problem arose when the prosecutor attempted to introduce as evidence statements which the accused Zdravko Mucic had made after his arrest in Vienna, in March last year: first in an interview with the Austrian police, and then to investigators from the Tribunal's Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).

The first interview was conducted in accordance with Austrian law, and the second on the basis of the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The prosecution had been arguing that those two interviews should be treated as a single item, and that both should be admitted together. But the defence argued that the basic rights of the accused had not been respected during the interview with the Austrian police, and that Austria's standards for the rights of an accused person or a suspect are much lower than those set by the Tribunal's rules.

The defence requested that a statement taken under such circumstances should be excluded from the evidence, on the basis of Rule 95 which states that “no evidence shall be admissible if obtained by methods which cast substantial doubt on its reliability or if its admission is antithetical to, and would seriously damage, the integrity of the proceedings.”

In its ruling, the Trial Chamber's point of departure was that since the crimes over which the Tribunal has jurisdiction are so serious, the highest standard of evidence should apply. The burden of proof that the evidence was taken in compliance with this standard is entirely on the prosecutor. The prosecutor tried to challenge that, but was over-ruled.

The Trial Chamber stated that even though the interview conducted by the Austrian police was governed by Austrian law, it would fail the test of the Tribunal's Rule 42 (Rights of Supsects during Investigation). And because it was not reliable under Rule 42, the Chamber ruled, it should not be admitted. By the same ruling, the interview conducted by the OTP investigators was admitted as evidence.

Basically, this ruling means that all interviews conducted with those accused or suspected on behalf of the OTP must meet the high standards set in the Tribunal's Rules, wherever they are conducted and regardless of the national legislation regulating such interviews.

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