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Haradinaj, Bosnia ICJ case, Foca rapes.

By IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 489, 19-Feb-07)
By IWPR
Judges had on February 6 asked prosecutors to maintain a selection of representative charges against Haradinaj and his co-accused Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj but to reduce the overall scope of the indictment in order to expedite proceedings.



They are charged with crimes committed in Kosovo through a joint criminal enterprise lasting seven months and affecting 65 victims of mixed ethnicity who were perceived as opponents of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.



Last week, prosecutors argued that any cuts would lead to streamlined charges which do not represent the prosecution’s case.



If prosecutors make the changes, only four incidents involving seven ethnic Serb victims would remain, making it challenging to prove the KLA carried out widespread systematic attacks against the Serb population.



As it stands, the indictment contains 37 counts relating to 18 incidents.



Senior trial attorney David Re said in a written submission that the Haradinaj case is different to other cases currently before the tribunal, including those against Serbian ultra nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, former Serbia’s president Milan Milutinovic and former Bosnian army general Dragomir Milosevic.



He said prosecutors working on these cases could cut counts, charges, incidents and crime sites from indictments “without significantly affecting the scope of the charges or jeopardising the ability to establish the necessary campaign or pattern of crimes”.



In the Haradinaj case, Re is adamant that narrowing the indictment would “cut to the very heart of the prosecution’s case”.



He also pointed out that there are relatively few victims in the Haradinaj case, and some charges depending on the testimony of only a few witnesses - some of whom are reluctant to testify due to ongoing safety concerns.



Prosecutors may have to “abandon one or more charges if witnesses are unwilling or unavailable to testify”, he said, and with this possibility looming large, reducing the indictment would “severely jeopardise” the prosecution’s ability to present the overall case.



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The International Court of Justice, ICJ, will announce its ruling on Bosnia’s lawsuit against Serbia and Montenegro at the end of February, exactly one year after proceedings began.



The president of the court, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, will read the judgment at a public sitting on February 26 in the Great Hall of Justice at the Peace Palace in The Hague.



Bosnia, the first country ever to bring a genocide charge against another country, filed the case 14 years ago, but had to wait until last February to finally bring it to court. It hopes to secure international legal acknowledgment of atrocities allegedly committed by Serbia’s leadership during the 1992-1995 conflict.



During two and a half months of hearings before ICJ judges, Bosnia’s lawyers tried to prove that genocide occurred in Bosnia and that responsibility lay with the Serbian state.



At the end of the proceedings in May, Sarajevo lawyers demanded that Serbia and Montenegro be found guilty of genocide in Bosnia, or alternatively for aiding and abetting genocide committed by individuals, groups and entities.



In an article published last week, however, Belgrade newspaper Blic quoted a source close to the court who apparently said the ICJ judges were not satisfied that the evidence presented by the Bosnian lawyers was sufficient to establish that genocide was planned on a state level.



According to Blic, the ICJ will confirm that crimes against Bosnian Muslims and Croats were committed by the Serb side, but the lawsuit will be rejected due to lack of evidence establishing a direct link between the crimes and the Serbian state leadership.



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A sentencing hearing in the case of a Bosnian Serb who has admitted to raping and torturing Bosnian Muslim women and girls during the 1992-95 war will take place this week in The Hague.



Dragan Zelenovic, a former Bosnian Serb soldier and de facto military policeman in the eastern Bosnian town of Foca, pleaded guilty last month to seven counts of torture and rape committed in 1992 and 1993, as part of a widespread and systematic attack on Bosnian Muslims in eastern Bosnia.



In exchange for the plea, the tribunal prosecutors agreed to drop another seven charges against him, and Zelenovic agreed to testify at any proceedings requested by the Office of the Prosecutor.



He was arrested in Russia in 2005, where he lived under an assumed identity, then transferred to The Hague via Bosnia in June last year.



Zelenovic's defence recommended a sentence of 7-10 years and the prosecution suggested 10-15.



However, tribunal judges are not bound by these sentencing proposals and can impose a harsher terms, including life imprisonment. They’ll announce their decision on February 23.

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