COURTSIDE: Jokic and Ademi Release Hearings

Prosecution believes Serbia is more likely to cooperate with provisional releases than Croatia

COURTSIDE: Jokic and Ademi Release Hearings

Prosecution believes Serbia is more likely to cooperate with provisional releases than Croatia

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

The prosecution in two provisional release hearings for Admiral Milorad Jokic and General Rahim Ademi last week said if felt the Serbian government was more willing than the Croatian authorities to assist in the cases.

The conclusion appeared paradoxical, as the prosecution has frequently praised Croatia for its cooperation in the past two years, while Serbia's and Yugoslavia's cooperation was perceived as highly unpredictable.

But in the hearings on the provisional release of the Yugoslav admiral, accused of the shelling of Dubrovnik, and the Croat general, charged with crimes against Serb civilians in Croatia's Medak pocket, the prosecution expressed confidence in Serbia's guarantees to arrest Jokic if he should refuse to return to The Hague before the trial and questioned Croatia's capability to do the same if Ademi behaved similarly.

The issue of the home state of the accused's guaranteeing to return him or her for trial is of highest relevance to the trial chamber in deliberating provisional releases, Chinese judge Liu Daqun said.

Judges Liu Daqun, Alphonsus Orie and El Mahdi demanded clarifications from Serbia's justice minister Vladan Batic, who offered oral guarantees for Jokic, and from Croatia's deputy prime minister Goran Granic, who reassured the chamber of Ademi's reappearance.

Batic said Serbia's willingness to cooperate should not be doubted despite the lack of assistance from the Yugoslav federal authorities.

The Croatian minister claimed his country's support for the tribunal was absolute and that its failure to arrest general Ante Gotovina should not affect Ademi.

Both men handed themselves over voluntarily to the tribunal last summer. They expect their surrenders to count as proof of their respect for the court and to assist them, just as voluntary surrenders have helped other accused to gain provisional release.

Six defendants are awaiting trials in their home countries, where their freedom of movement and activities are restricted. They are Biljana Plavsic and Pavle Strugar, who live in Serbia, and four Bosnian Army commanders who provisionally returned to Bosnia.

Ademi's defence counsel urged the judges to bear in mind another trial chamber's opinion, presided over by German judge Wolfgang Schomburg, that pre-trial detention should be the exception and not the rule, though this has not been the practice so far at the Tribunal.

The rulings in the cases of Jokic and Ademi will show which direction the pre-trial detention issue will take.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.

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