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COURTSIDE: Plavsic Case

The tribunal allows Plavsic to return to Belgrade pending the start of her trial.
By Mirko Klarin

Nine months after she surrendered voluntarily to the tribunal, former Republika Srpska, RS, president Biljana Plavsic left the UN detention unit last week and returned to Serbia where she will stay until her trial begins early next year.

Plavsic was granted provisional release by the judges, who were satisfied by the guarantees given by Serbian justice minister Vladan Batic that she will return to detention before her trial commences and that her security, as well as that of potential witnesses against her, will be protected.

A trial date has not been set for Plavsic and her co-accused, Momcilo Krajisnik, another former RS leader. But the tribunal is trying to speed up legal preparations so that it can begin in February at the latest. Both the prosecution and the defence suggested they could use more time to prepare.

The prosecution - which has been criticised for tardiness - accepted the trial chamber's proposed date of February, but the defence believes that this is not a "realistic" schedule in view of the volume of evidence in the case against the former RS leaders.

Like Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, Plavsic and Krajisnik are both charged with genocide and a substantial number of other crimes committed across Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The prosecution has submitted - and is still submitting - thousands of documents. Around 800 of them are considered key to the case. The prosecution further plans to introduce as many as 335 witnesses, of whom 179 will appear before the court. In order to prepare an appropriate response to so many different charges, the defence will need far more time.

Meanwhile, Krajisnik, who last week was denied a three-day release from custody to attend a memorial service for his recently deceased father in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has submitted a request for temporary release that will be discussed on September 20. The defence will argue that Krajisnik's 17-month remand in custody violates his right to a trial without unnecessary delay.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor for the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

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