Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 30: Last Week in The Hague (May 26-31, 1997)

Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 30: Last Week in The Hague (May 26-31, 1997)

Saturday, 31 May, 1997

The trial was adjourned on May 15, after the prosecution revealed that on April 15 the Sarajevo weekly "Slobodna Hercegovina" had published an interview with the first defendant, Zejnil Delalic, together with a list of the names of 48 prosecution witnesses, including several protected witnesses whose identity is supposed to be concealed from the public.

In the interview, Delalic presented himself as a victim of the "Serb-Croat conspiracy" which aimed to show the government and army of Bosnia and Herzegovina as "aggressors against Serbs". Delalic describes the witnesses against him as "eight or nine HVO [Croatian Defence Council] criminals," who are trying to shift responsibility for their crimes on to him. "The Croats blame me for the alleged suffering of Serbs. What's the logic in that?" he wonders. The interview was published with the headline: "Prosecution witnesses are confirmed murderers and criminals!"

The Tribunal has taken the discovery of the names of protected witnesses very seriously, and president Antonio Cassese is leading the investigation in person. Those suspected of revealing the names-Delalic himself, and his defence lawyers Edina Residovic and Eugene O'Sullivan-are saying nothing. On Wednesday May 29, Trial Chamber II convened to present the findings of the President's investigation into the leaking of the list of witnesses.

The President came to the following conclusions:

(a) that there is no evidence of misconduct on the part of counsel for the accused;

(b) that it was likely that the defendant Delalic gave an interview to the magazine Slobodna Hercegovina. In the course of that interview, Delalic might have acted in contempt of the court's order of non-disclosure of witnesses' names; The court may thus wish to initiate contempt proceedings against Delalic;

(c) the investigations into the author of the article and the editor of the magazine were inconclusive.

A battle ensued over the interpretation of Cassese's conclusions. The prosecution announced that the investigations would continue, the defence counsels objected, on the grounds that they would remain under suspicion, and the judges wondered what the purpose of further investigation would be if those under suspicion are using silence as their defence.

Following that discussion, Trial Chamber II handed down the following ruling on Thursday, May 29: The Chamber accepted the President's findings regarding counsel for the accused, but could not accept his findings regarding the accused himself.

Delalic has denied giving an interview and has claimed his right to silence. Delalic's denial still stands and there is no evidence to the contrary, and no evidence that he should be charged with contempt. There is thus no basis for continuing any suspicion against him. According to the Trial Chamber, this concludes the matter.

The incident is over, the mystery of the interview and the disclosure of the witness list remains, but the trial could go on. And it did go on, on Friday afternoon, but without success. The defence objected to the appearance, in the capacity of expert witness, of witness "O" -- a doctor who had examined about 20 former inmates of Celebici in 1993 and confirmed their injuries and troubles.

The defence asked that, if he was permitted to appear as an expert witness, he should submit to the Tribunal the complete medical documentation which would then be examined by the experts for the defence. It turned out, however, that witness "O" does not have such documentation.

The prosecution suggested that he should still be heard as a "fact witness", but this was impossible because Dr "O" had not been in the camp, and the other "facts" which he could have revealed were, according to the defence, irrelevant to the case in question.

The hearing ended in total chaos, so no one present was sure whether the Trial Chamber had accepted that Dr "O" should give evidence, or not.

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