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COURTSIDE: Krajisnik and Plavsic Case - a Defence Divided

Krajisnik's uncooperative defence receive no disclosure, while the helpful Plavsic looks set for a provisional release pending trial.
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Prosecuting and defence counsels are involved in a dispute over disclosure in the joint trial of Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic, a status conference revealed last week. Krajisnik's lawyers are apparently eager to keep the details of the defence case close to their chests ahead of the trial. But the prosecution, headed by the American Mark Harmon, are insisting on a quid quo pro disclosure: they will withhold documents until the defence makes clear how they plans to run their case.


Plavsic's team by contrast has agreed to reciprocal disclosure. Prosecutors have so far handed over half of the 800 key documents which make up the bulk of the material evidence in their case.


Headed by the American of Serbian origin, Deyan Brashich, Krajisnik's team insisted their client had not refused reciprocity with the prosecution, but has the right to select which evidence is made available to prosecutors in the pre-trial stage. The prosecution, however, is obliged to hand over all relevant material evidence to the defence, Krajisnik's lawyers argued.


The judges have yet to declare their opinion on the point. The next status conference is scheduled for early September.


Krajisnik looks like being the only defendant at that hearing. Plavsic's lawyers last week submitted a long-anticipated request for the provisional release of their client until the start of the trial expected in January 2002.


Their request is based on the assertion that Plavsic surrendered voluntarily to the tribunal as soon as she learned that she had been indicted, and that Serbia and Republika Srpska had guaranteed to arrest and return her to The Hague should she attempt to escape there.


Included with the request is a statement from Plavsic in which she gave "solemn promises" to "continue cooperation with this tribunal, appear for trial and refrain from interfering with witnesses or from obstructing justice in any other manner, and to obey any order of the tribunal".


The request also includes two affidavits from former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former head of the Bosnia mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Robert Frowick.


According to Plavsic's lead counsel, another American of Serbian origin, Robert Pavich, the affidavits testify that "the value and integrity of Mrs. Plavsic's word has been recognised and relied upon by other world leaders in times of international crisis".


Albright wrote that in Plavsic she saw "someone who changed tremendously for the good during the difficult history of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She clearly was a member of the Bosnian Serb leadership in the early days of the conflict. Over the months she not only broke with the others, but she also became instrumental in the implementation of the Dayton Agreement. It can be said unequivocally that without her support we would not have accomplished all that we did".


The request was also supported by Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who pointed to Plavsic's exemplary cooperation with the prosecution.


The judges are expected to give their opinion before the end of July. If provisional release is approved, Plavsic could be at liberty beyond January 2002. Should fellow indictees Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, and General Ratko Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, arrive at The Hague, it is almost certain moves would be made to join all four cases into one trial, which would inevitably be delayed while Karadzic and Mladic's defences are prepared.


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