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Karadzic Freedom of Expression Ruling

Tribunal president says it was unreasonable to prevent defendant’s statement being sent to a journalist.
By Rachel Irwin

The Hague tribunal president this week ruled that Radovan Karadzic’s right to freedom of expression was unjustly restricted when he was not allowed to submit a certain statement to an Austrian magazine.

Deputy court registrar Ken Roberts had decided in August that one of Karadzic’s written responses to Robert Treichler of the magazine Profil “unfairly and incorrectly misrepresents the work of the office of the prosecutor”.

What exactly Karadzic stated in that response has not been made public, but tribunal president Judge Patrick Robinson ruled on October 11 that “the mere fact that the deputy registrar disagrees with the opinion conveyed by the said response, without more, does not provide an adequate basis for curtailing Karadzic’s right to freedom of expression…”

The judge noted that “no reasonable person who has properly applied his mind to the current issue, could arrive at the conclusion that the publication of Karadzic’s subjective view…alleging bias on the part of the [prosecution] and a general lack of impartiality in its conduct of investigations, could interfere with the administration of justice or otherwise undermine the tribunal’s mandate”.

Judge Robinson also agreed with Karadzic that the registrar took too long – about three months – to respond to the defendant’s request to submit his answers to Treichler.

Karadzic is required to receive permission from the registrar before he can relay any statements, which must be in written form, to journalists.

“I indeed consider that the three months taken by the registry to process the request for media contact constituted an inordinate delay,” the judge stated.

He urged the registry to respond to all future requests within ten days of their receipt.

Karadzic, the president of Bosnia's self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is accused of planning and overseeing the massacre of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, as well as the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead.

The indictment - which lists 11 counts in total - alleges that he was responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory”. Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.