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Karadzic Bid to Delay Charge Amendment Blocked

Judges find that prosecutors’ flouting of rules in submitting overly long application was “necessary” under circumstances.
By Simon Jennings
Judges at the Hague tribunal this week rejected Radovan Karadzic’s bid to hold up the prosecution’s application to amend the charges against him.

The former Bosnian Serb president had said the prosecutors’ submission of September 22, in which they outlined their proposed change to his indictment, should be thrown out and then rewritten because it flouted the court’s rules on word length.

In a written ruling, judges recognised that prosecutors had indeed fallen foul of the length guidelines, which govern requests made by either party in a trial.

However, they concluded that the oversized filing was “necessary under the circumstances due to the nature and complexity of the proposed amendments and the desirability of their being explained in a comprehensive manner”.

On October 29, Karadzic asked judges to reject the prosecutors’ request because they had not sought prior permission to exceed the accepted word limit. Their request ran to 4,077 words whereas the normal limit is 3,000.

The prosecutors said they had not envisaged exceeding the word limit until shortly before filing their application, and had done so in order to clarify their arguments to both the accused and the judges.

Prosecutors are seeking amendments to the indictment in order to incorporate up-to-date case law and evidence heard by the tribunal since the current charges against the accused were lodged in April 2000. If their amendments are accepted, Karadzic will face trial on 11 counts of crimes against humanity – including two separate counts of genocide – although the locations and timeframe of his alleged criminal responsibility have been reduced.

According to prosecutors, reducing the scope of the charges “will contribute to a more efficient and expeditious presentation of the prosecution’s case”.

Although judges acknowledged that prosecutors had not abided by tribunal guidelines in submitting the proposed amendments, they noted the existence of “appropriate circumstances” in which to ignore them.

The judges also ruled that while rejecting the prosecution’s filing would have held up proceedings, there was no prejudice caused to the accused by accepting it. They warned the prosecution to be more careful in future applications.

The judges will now consider whether to accept the proposed amendments before delivering a ruling in due course.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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