Krajisnik Testimony Set for April

Judges criticise long delays and tell Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker to decide whether he really wants to testify.

Krajisnik Testimony Set for April

Judges criticise long delays and tell Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker to decide whether he really wants to testify.

Judges at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik say they are appalled by delays in the case and have ordered the defence to resume its case on March 6 and be finished with ten “priority witnesses” by April 4.

Krajisnik has been ordered to take the stand on April 11 for 20 days with cross-examination and judges questions to last until June 2. They also once again extended the closing date of the trial, this time by one month until the end of May. It had already been put back to April 28.

The Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker faces accusations that he “planned, instigated, ordered and committed” persecutions of Bosnian Muslims and Croats in 1991 and 1992. He is charged with one count each of genocide, complicity to genocide and violations of the laws and customs of war along with five counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly participating in ethnic cleansing.

The trial stopped in February to give the defence time to prepare Krajisnik to take the stand on February 27. But it has since emerged that he has been suffering from mental stress and therefore unable to testify.

A psychiatric examination showed “visible signs of deterioration in the subject’s defensive mental capacities” over the past two months, and confirmed that he was responding “well” to drug therapy.

A second doctor’s report suggested that being surrounded by piles of paper in his cell “may have caused him to experience some physical symptoms and additional mental stress”. A secure filing cabinet has now been placed in an adjacent cell – a solution that doctors say seems satisfactory to Krajisnik.

At a court session last week, Krajisnik described that while surrounded by his archive he had broken out in sweat six times a night.

In a decision signed by presiding judge Alphonse Orie, the chamber says that “for a person who has been in detention for over five years”, in light of the improvements in his environment and his positive response to medication, a more detailed psychiatric examination is not needed.

The judges then go on to discuss the trial schedule, which has been subject to a series of delays. They point out that the defence was allowed to delay the start of its case by one month to October 2005, and that in November the trial chamber gave it an additional seven weeks, extending the closing date to April 28 of this year.

Since October, defence lawyers have presented 15 witnesses and changed the date on which they wanted Krajisnik to address the court several times.

During January the presiding judge remarked that “there is no schedule whatsoever and new witnesses are put in without the consent of the chamber”.

The judges now show their clear frustration with “the failure of the defence to present a coherent proposal – or even a proposal that could begin to be taken seriously – for scheduling…” the Krajisnik testimony.

They complain that the defence is “not complying with the trial schedule” and about “its state of unpreparedness”.

The defence has argued repeatedly that it has not had adequate time or facilities to prepare. Prosecutors began their case in February 2004 and finished in July the following year. In April 2005 the Appeals Chamber turned down a defence request for a six-month break in order to prepare.

The judges in the trial chamber have continued to dispute the defence complaints, arguing that Krajisnik himself is causing problems because he has refused to pay his part of the defence team’s bill, and that the lawyers have had many working days away from court in which to prepare.

The judges say they are in an “unpleasant position” of having to give extra time to the defence, or “having to risk not hearing what could be very important evidence in this case”, and that “the moment has now come for the accused to decide” whether he wants to testify or not.

Janet Anderson is IWPR’s International Justice Programme Director.
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