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Former Officer Convicted of Contempt

Bosnian Serb official handed prison sentence for failing to testify in Hague tribunal.
By Alexandra Arkin
  • Dragomir Pecanac in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
    Dragomir Pecanac in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)

Former Bosnian Serb army security and intelligence officer Dragomir Pecanac was convicted of contempt of court this week and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for failing to appear before the Hague tribunal to testify in the trial of ex-Bosnian Serb officer Zdravko Tolimir earlier this year.

The tribunal found Pecanac guilty on December 9 of having knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice by failing to appear before the chamber as a prosecution witness, or to show good cause why he could not comply with the August 31, 2011 subpoena ordering him to appear.

After receiving the subpoena, Pecanac said he was willing to appear but could not testify, for health and other reasons. He later he obstructed attempts by tribunal staff to facilitate his safe transfer to The Hague, refusing to speak to or meet them and insisting they contact him through the authorities in Serbia.

The chamber then issued an order in lieu of an indictment for contempt on September 21. Pecanac was arrested in Belgrade six days later and pleaded not guilty to the contempt charges on October 19. The trial was held last week.

The Hague tribunal ruled that the defendant’s excuses did not show “good cause” why he could not comply with the subpoena, and that his failure to testify had deprived the chamber of relevant evidence.

“Contempt of the tribunal is a serious offence, which goes to the essence of the administration of justice,” the chamber wrote in the judgment. “By his failure to comply with the subpoena and to appear at the seat of the tribunal and testify, the accused has acted against the interests of justice.”

Pecanac’s three-month sentence is subject to credit being given for 74 days he has already spent in detention.

Alexandra Arkin is an IWPR intern in The Hague.

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