Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICTY: Oct ‘08

Tribunal project continues coverage of key trials and conducts training workshop in The Hague.
The Hague tribunal programme continued to cover several high-profile cases, such as the trial of Serbian ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj and pre-trial proceedings in the case against ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

One of the most important developments this month was the ICTY’s decision to continue to monitor communication between Vojislav Seselj and his legal advisers in Belgrade over fears that he may have use phone calls to arrange the intimidation of witnesses.

Because he is representing himself, Seselj, who is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Croatia and Serbia between 1991 and 1993, was entitled to privileged communication from the detention unit in The Hague with his legal support team in Serbia.

Under tribunal rules, the accused was allowed one telephone number which he could call from the detention unit on a confidential basis.

However, at the end of October, the tribunal’s registrar Hans Holthuis ruled that there are “reasonable grounds for believing that privileged communication… may have been used to facilitate interference with or intimidation of witnesses”.

As early as June this year, the project’s Hague journalist Simon Jennings reported –

in Seselj Party Accused of Witness Intimidation – that a leading NGO had accused the politician of using these phone calls to arrange the intimidation of witnesses.

On October 9, the project posted another article featuring Seselj – Could Imposing Counsel on Seselj Backfire? – in which we examined the possible impact of the Hague prosecutor’s bid to impose a defence counsel on the Serbian ultranationalist politician.

While prosecutors claim this would speed up the proceedings, some observers believe that denying Seselj his right to self-representation could lead to deadlock in the trial if he then refuses to cooperate.

Another project featured this month highlighted the growing pressure on the Security Council to extend the mandate of the tribunal beyond the current completion deadline of 2010.

The article, UN Resists Pressure to Extend Hague Court's Term, which was also written by Jennings and published on October 24, examined the reasons why this date is unrealistic.

In October, Tribunal Update also reported from outside the world of the tribunal, providing an analysis of the situation among the returning Bosniaks in the eastern Bosnian town of Foca.

The article, which was the result of Jennings’ field trip to Bosnia this summer, examined the reasons behind the slow return of Bosniaks to Foca.

Surprisingly, despite the town’s recent bloody history and the horrible crimes that were committed there during the 1992-95 war, the main obstacle to former residents’ return is not inter-ethnic hatred, but rather a dire economic situation and a lack of jobs.

This month, the project team also covered the opening of the war crimes trial of one of the highest-ranking Yugoslav officials to be tried at this court, former Yugoslav army chief of staff Momcilo Perisic.

Coverage was also provided of the contempt case of former prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann, who stands accused of leaking confidential information.

Besides written output, the project team was also busy providing journalism training.

On October 4, Jennings held an IWPR journalism workshop in Amsterdam at the 10th anniversary conference of the non-governmental organisation Humanity in Action, HIA.

Attendees comprised the organisation's senior fellows who worked in both the public and commercial sector, including within national governmental departments and at the European parliament in Brussels. Two of the fellows were from Bosnia.

Based on IWPR's broad coverage of international justice, the workshop covered a range of journalism skills to enable participants to start writing articles within their specialised field.

“The workshop on journalistic writing provided me with some helpful clues on how to get started,” commented one participant in a newsletter about the conference.

Since the workshop, Jennings has remained in touch with participants regarding articles they have written.

HIA have expressed a wish to be more closely involved in the work of IWPR in The Hague following the workshop, and one of their Bosnian fellows has started to write reports for Tribunal Update.

As coronavirus sweeps the globe, IWPR’s network of local reporters, activists and analysts are examining the economic, social and political impact of this era-defining pandemic.


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