Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 64: Last Week in The Hague (February 16-21, 1998)

Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 64: Last Week in The Hague (February 16-21, 1998)

Saturday, 21 February, 1998

"That is the prosecution case", Prosecutor Grant Niemann, concluded in a lapidary manner on Monday 16 February, precisely 11 months and 6 days after the beginning of the trial of three Bosnian Muslims and one Croat, accused of alleged crimes against Bosnian Serbs in the Celebici camp, in Central Bosnia.

Dr James Gow has been summoned as the last expert-witness to prop up the Prosecutor's argument on the international character of the war in that part of Bosnia and the protected status of the inmates of Celebici.

The Prosecutor also intended to use the military expertise of its witness in order to show that the first-accused Zejnil Delalic, as the "coordinator" of Muslim and Croat forces in the region of Konjic, where the Celebici camp was situated, had command authority and responsibility.

The Defence, on the other hand, during the marathon cross-examination, disputed the protected status of the inmates of Celebici (who were nationals of B-H who rebelled against their own government), as well as the command authority of the "coordinator" (who was only the "mediator between different units and their command structures").

It is impossible to draw a conclusion as to what extent either the Prosecution or the Defence have succeeded in their intentions, primarily because the cross-examination, which started on 2 December 1997 and ended on 16 February 1998 was confused and protracted.

Confusion and prolongation are the two defining characteristics of the entire trial which will soon enter its second year, largely owing to the defenders (primarily the American ones) of the accused, who, as the President of the Tribunal Gabrielle Kirk McDonald recently noted, "behave as if they were in the O.J. (Simpson) Trial, and not before the International Tribunal".

The Trial Chamber II trio (Presiding Judge Adolphus Karibi-Whyte, Judges Elisabeth Odio Benito and Saad Saood Jan) also undoubtedly contributed to such a course of the trial, by tolerating such conduct by the defense.

One gets the impression that it suits all of them that the trial should last as long as possible: the judges because their mandate (since they have not been reelected) lasts until the end of the case; the defense, since the Tribunal pays them for the time they spent on the trial; and finally the accused who already "feel at home" at the ICTY's Detention Unit where they have made new friends.

The Celebici trial will continue in March, with the arguments of the defense.

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