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Kovac & Kunarac Case: Not Guilty Pleas To Amended Indictment

Tribunal Update 144: Last Week in The Hague (September 20-25, 1999)

The same acts - rape and enslavement of Muslim women in Foca - are qualified in the amended indictment not only as a crime against humanity, but also as a violation of the laws or customs of war. At the same time, together with the detained Dragoljub Kunarac, Kovac's charges were separated from the original Foca Indictment. Since the death of Dragan Gagovic, seven names remain on this indictment, though five are still at large. The new indictment is called 'Kunarac and Kovac'. The joint trial of the two accused, as Judge Florence Mumba has announced, should start in February next year.

Since Dragoljub Kunarac was present in the courtroom as well, Judge Mumba asked him to also enter a plea on the new indictment, even though the new qualifications did not change the detail of the alleged acts cited in the indictment. Kunarac also once again pleaded "not guilty" on all 21 counts. Momir Kolesar, Kovac's temporary defence counsel, said that three months would be enough for him to collect the witnesses' statements and to prepare a defence. Kolesar was assigned to Kovac by the Tribunal registrar Dorothee de Sampayo after she refused Kovac's request that he be defended by Belgrade lawyer Milan Vujin, who is currently facing proceedings for contempt of court.

But Slavisa Prodanovic, Kunarac's defence counsel, objected on the grounds that he and his client have been ready for the trial since the middle of last year. Prodanovic argued that Kunarac had already spent so much time in detention awaiting trial, his right to a speedy hearing was being violated and that he should be released from jail to appear before the Tribunal with Kovac as a free man.

Pointing out that five others on the Foca indictment were still at large, Prodanovic worried that if one or more of them were arrested during the three months required by Kolesar, Kunarac's trial might be postponed again while the new defendants go through preliminary procedures.

The judges did not respond to these "hypothetical questions" from Prodanovic.

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