COURTSIDE: Pre-Trial Detention Questioned

Tribunal judge says pre-trial detentions should be an exception not a rule.

COURTSIDE: Pre-Trial Detention Questioned

Tribunal judge says pre-trial detentions should be an exception not a rule.

Saturday, 15 December, 2001

The court provisionally released four former Bosnian army commanders last week, after they were considered to have voluntary surrendered and the Sarajevo government guaranteed their return to tribunal's custody before their trials.


The Bosnian army's former supreme commander Sefer Halilovic has appeared to cooperate with the prosecution, which in return did not oppose his release.


Halilovic was accused of command responsibility for the killing of Bosnian Croats in two villages in southern Bosnia during operation "Neretva-93", which he allegedly supervised. He pleaded not guilty after turning himself in in September.


The prosecution vehemently opposed the release of three former Bosnian army third corps commanders, claiming it would adversely affect their victims and potential witnesses in central Bosnia.


Generals Enver Hadzihasanovic and Mehmed Alagic and Colonel Amir Kubura pleaded not guilty of command responsibility for attacking, killing and illegally detaining and mistreating Bosnian Croats and other non-Bosniaks in the region.


The prosecution also holds them responsible for crimes allegedly committed by foreign so-called mujahedin fighters attached to the third corps.


After a two-day hearing, the judges were not convinced by the prosecution and accepted the accused men's "word of honour" not to threaten anyone and to respect the chamber's conditions for their release.


These include restricted movement to the towns in which they live in, weekly reports to the police, a ban on contacts with victims or witnesses and a ban on holding any public posts.


Judge Wolfgang Schomburg said the release was "simply a decision that shows our respect for their human rights". He said pre-trial detentions "should be an exception, and freedom the rule", contrary to the practice so far.


The court's attitude to the latest requests for provisional release, headed by Croatian General Rahim Ademi and Yugoslav Admiral Miodrag Jokic, will show whether this is about to become the norm.


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


Support our journalists