Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Celebici Trial: Defence Counterattacks

Tribunal Update 78: Last Week in The Hague (25-30 May 1998)

They submitted a motion on judicial independence, which requests that Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito be disqualified on the grounds that she was elected vice-president of Costa Rica on 8 May 1998. In that way, the defense claims, "she ceased to be qualified to be elected as a Magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice of her own country," and she thus cannot continue being an ICTY judge. Article 13 of the ICTY statute stipulates that Tribunal judges must "possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices."

While "in no way suggesting" that Judge Odio Benito "has done any act which might be construed as being impartial ..." the defense "respectfully suggests that ... contemporaneous holding by the Learned Judge of elective political office and [that] of judge of the International [Criminal] Tribunal ... means that the Learned Judge has 'an association which might affect her impartiality.'"

Trial Chamber II quarter, which, apart from Judge Odio Benito, also includes Judge Adolphus Karibi-White and Judge Saad Saood Jan, declined to consider the defense's motion, pointing out that it has been sent to the wrong address, i.e. that such requests should be submitted to the president of the Tribunal, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald.

The defense lawyers of the four accused of alleged crimes against Bosnian Serbs detained at the Celebici camp also opposed the judges' attempt to limit the number of witnesses that each of them may summon during the presentation of evidence in favor of their clients. A short hearing was conducted last week about their "joint request regarding presentation of evidence," and the decision of the trial chamber will be announced later.

There were no significant new developments in the trial itself. The defense of Zejnil Delalic summoned five new witnesses last week, who - like the previous 13 - unanimously confirmed that the accused, either as a "coordinator" between Bosniak and Croat forces at the beginning of the war in 1992 or later as the commander of Tactical Group I, was not in charge of military and police units responsible for the Celebici camp (or prison, as the defense would have it).

Similarly, the five witnesses also had no knowledge of who was actually in charge of Celebici.

More IWPR's Global Voices