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Krajisnik Appeal Launched

Lawyer wants verdict against Bosnian Serb politician quashed or a re-trial.
By Katy Glassborow
Momcilo Krajisnik’s lawyer has appealed the 27-year sentence given to the one-time Bosnian Serb politician, saying judges didn’t give him adequate time or facilities to prepare his defence.

Krajisnik was found guilty in September of charges relating to his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Judges said Krajisnik was responsible for the extermination, murder, persecution, deportation and forced transfer of non-Serb civilians from large parts of Bosnia, but acquitted him of genocide.

The tribunal has handed down only two genocide convictions, both for Bosnian Serb army officers involved in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Colin Nicholls, the lawyer assigned to Krajisnik after he fired his defence counsel Nicholas Stewart, is appealing the judgment without his client’s authorisation. Nicholls is acting in the capacity of amicus curiae to Krajisnik, who refuses to recognise him as his defence counsel.

Krajisnik wants to conduct his own defence, and apparently plans to file a separate appeal. Nicholls underlined that this appeal will not influence how Krajisnik presents his own arguments.

Nicholls claims that Krajisnik’s right to a fair trial was impeded when judges started hearings in February 2004, rejecting defence applications to adjourn.

He said that giving the defence a “manifestly inadequate” time to prepare the final brief constitutes an “error in law” which invalidates the judgment.

Nicholls said Krajisnik’s right to examine prosecution witnesses and call witnesses on his own behalf was limited and that he was given only 60 per cent of the time allocated to prosecutors to call key defence witnesses.

Because the judgment was rendered only one month after the prosecution and defence had wrapped up their arguments, Nicholls says this time period was “self-evidently insufficient” for judges to chew over the “copious body of evidence” put before them.

Then Nicholls extensively criticised the definitions of joint criminal enterprise, JCE, the conclusion drawn by judges about Krajisnik’s involvement in JCE activities, his knowledge of the master plan and his criminal liability for the actions of others.

He also called into question the testimonies of two key prosecution witnesses, which he said the trial chamber had used to establish Krajisnik’s place in the Bosnian-Serb hierarchy.

The trial chamber had found that Krajisnik was Radovan Karadzic’s “number two” or his “private prime minister”, based on evidence from former Bosnian Serb justice minister Momcilo Mandic and prime minister Branko Deric.

As Mandic is on trial for war crimes in Bosnia, and Deric “had obvious reasons to exaggerate” Krajisnik’s involvement to “reduce his own responsibility”, Nicholls argues that the trial chamber shouldn’t have placed such importance on the evidence of witnesses with “powerful motives to lie”.

Meanwhile, Nicholls argued the trial judge’s approach to Krajisnik’s own evidence was “wholly unreasonable”, saying they relied on incriminatory evidence from his testimony, but found him of low credibility and disregarded evidence which could have exonerated him.

One month after the September 2006 verdict, prosecutors issued their own appeal describing the sentence as “manifestly inappropriate”.

The tribunal’s chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said the sentence “demonstrates a disregard for the inherent gravity of the crimes committed by the respondent” and called for the appeals judges to increase Krajisnik’s sentence to life.

Prosecutors argue that the judges gave too much sway to factors including Krajisnik’s age and the fact that he didn’t try to abscond and not enough to Krajisnik’s “key role” in various institutions which “exercised control over Bosnian-Serb political and governmental organs and Bosnian-Serb forces”.

Katy Glassborow is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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