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

Judges Losing Patience with Krajisnik

Six months after he was sentenced, the former Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker still hasn’t chosen an appeal lawyer.
By Lisa Clifford
A judge has ordered former Bosnian Serb politician Momcilo Krajisnik to decide by early next month who he wants to represent him at his upcoming appeal before the Hague tribunal.



Krajisnik was found guilty last September of crimes against humanity against non-Serb civilians in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, including persecution, extermination, murder, deportation and forced transfer. However, he was acquitted of genocide.



Many months have now passed since judges handed down his 27-year sentence and still the issue of his appeal lawyer is rumbling on.



At a status conference on March 26, Judge Wolfgang Schomburg showed signs of getting impatient. He told Krajisnik that he had until the next hearing scheduled for April 5 to say who he wants as a lawyer.



Krajisnik fired his trial lawyer Nicholas Stewart and has refused to work with Stewart’s replacement Colin Nicholls, who nevertheless filed an appeal in February. The prosecution has also appealed the sentence, asking for life.



Krajisnik is determined to conduct his own defence and wants to file his own appeal, but still hasn’t found a lawyer to help.



His top choice - American Alan Dershowitz - is looking increasingly unlikely to make the journey to The Hague. Krajisnik told the hearing that Dershowitz - who famously defended OJ Simpson - has agreed “in principle” to represent him but said there was a funding issue.



An official from the court’s registry then told Judge Schomburg that his office had last made contact with Dershowitz in January and the lawyer had said that - although he was interested in the case - he wasn’t prepared to take it on at that time.



Despite the problems, Krajisnik remains determined to represent himself. “I’m quite sure I could file a better appeal and defend myself in a better way,” he told the court.



Krajisnik’s determination not to cooperate has placed Nicholls in a difficult position. The British lawyer admitted this week that he has received “virtually no instructions” from his client.



As a way around the problem, Nicolls wants to be appointed amicus curiae, or friend of the court.



The judge questioned whether this was an adequate replacement for a fully-fledged defence lawyer. He also asked whether Nicholls would face a conflict of interest, acting as friend of the court while at the same time representing the interests of the accused. He then wondered if Krajisnik would accept Nicholls as amicus curiae and work with him.



“I deeply regret that you are in this uncomfortable situation, somewhere between amicus curiae and defence counsel,” Judge Schomburg told Nicholls.



After a break and a meeting between client and lawyer, the hearing resumed with the news that Krajisnik would allow Nicholls to deal with legal issues, leaving the factual aspects of the case to him.



Nicholls, however, made it clear to the court that he would work only with a team of his choosing.



That is unlikely to include Dejan Brasic who has been removed from the list of lawyers allowed to appear before the tribunal. Brasic has been disbarred in the US, but Krajisnik wants him on his team along with law professor Zoran Stojanovic.



Lisa Clifford is an IWPR reporter in London.