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Jelisic Case: A Sudden Judgement Day

Tribunal Update 147: Last Week in The Hague (11-16 October, 1999)

The chamber had earlier called a break in proceedings following the end of the prosecution's presentation of evidence in September. The scheduling order reads: "Pursuant to article 23 of the Statute and rule 98 ter of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal, Goran Jelisic shall be brought before Trial Chamber I on 19 October 1999 at 14.30 p.m. in Courtroom I."

Jelisic has pleaded guilty to 31 counts of the indictment, namely, to crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, but not guilty to the first count of genocide. At the time Tribunal Update went to publication, both prosecution and defence were refusing to say more beyond what had been formally announced.

In the proving procedure, the prosecutor attempted to prove that the killings Jelisic had admitted to were carried out with a "genocidal intent: to destroy, in whole, or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such..."

If the defence believed the prosecution had failed to prove this, it could ask the Trial Chamber to dismiss the genocide charge, but as far as is known, Jelisic's counsel did not make this request. He only had asked for more time to prepare evidence.

However, the judges could take the option of dismissing the case on their own initiative without a request from the defence - but, in that case, they would be expected to refer, not to Rule 98 ter, but to Rule 98 bis (Motion for Judgement of Acquittal).

This reads: "If, after the close of the case for the prosecution, the Trial Chamber finds that the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction on one or more offences charged in the indictment, the Trial Chamber, on motion of an accused or proprio motu, shall order the entry of judgement of acquittal on that or those charges."

At time of publication observers considered two scenarios. First, that on October 19 Jelisic was going to change his plea on genocide charges to guilty, perhaps because he has a problem finding witnesses to testify in his defence.

The second possible scenario considered at the time, was the possibility that the judges were going to dismiss the genocide charge - either because of some new findings on Jelisic's mental state or pursuant to a conclusion that the Prosecutor has not

proven his case. The Prosecutor, in his Motion filed on 15 October, wrote that "since the Prosecution has only concluded its opening and presentation-in-chief of its evidence at this stage of proceedings, it seems that The Trial Chamber is contemplating a 'proprio motu' order for the entry of judgement of acquittal puruant to Rule 98 bis." At that point the Prosecutor requested the Trial Chamber to reconsider issuing any order to dismiss and to grant the parties an opportunity to be heard before the entry of judgement.

The speculation was scheduled for a quick end - on 19 October when Goran Jelisic shall be brought before Trial Chamber I.

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