Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Prlic Lawyers Seek Disqualification of Judge

Defence team alleges connection between judge and author of United Nations reports.
By Rachel Irwin

Lawyers for Bosnian Croat political leader Jadranko Prlic this week requested that one of the judges hearing the case against him disqualified.

The request came after the Prlic defence requested more information regarding the relationship between Judge Arpad Prandler and Viktor Andreev, who was head of United Nations Civil Affairs during the Bosnian war. Andreev authored four reports which were entered into evidence during the trial.

An earlier request for a public hearing on the matter was turned down by judges. On September 3, the defence requested a stay of proceedings until a decision was reached on the disqualification request.

According to an August 30 defence motion, the fact that Judge Prandler was acquainted with Andreev was revealed during the March 2010 testimony of Milivoj Petkovic, one of the six co-defendants in the Prlic case.

The six are charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against Bosniaks on territory claimed by Bosnian Croats during the war.

After the accused Petkovic spoke of his dealings with Andreev, Judge Prandler said that he knew “Mr Andreev from the United Nations work and from New York”.

As set out in the defence motion, Judge Prandler then asked Petkovic whether he had “concrete events which you base your position on [Andreev], as far as when you say those are his assessments and his games, and what do you mean by ‘games’?”

Prlic’s lawyer Michael Karnavas states in the motion that it was not until the so-called “Mladic diaries” – over 3,000 pages of material handwritten by indicted Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic – were disclosed in April that “the defence was able to surmise Andreev’s dark character and questionable pro-Bosnian Serb/anti-Bosnian Croat activities”.

The diary entries, writes Karnavas, “reveal meetings between Andreev and the Bosnian Serb political and military leadership. Andreev appears to be providing sensitive UN/UNPROFOR inside information, undermining his UN superiors and colleagues at UNPROFOR, [and] providing advice on how to deal with the UN and international negotiators”.

Karnavas cites several diary entries, including one from May 15, 1993, when Andreev has a meeting with Mladic and tells him not to fear US intervention because “Russia will not allow it”.

In this same meeting, states Karnavas, Andreev says to Mladic that “the Muslims are the biggest problem to resolve. As soon as you say ‘yes’, they will say ‘no’. It is in their interest for Sarajevo to remain a problem.”

Andreev also tells Mladic that “this is a TV war” and that the Muslims “know they are provoking the Serbs,” writes Karnavas.

In addition, Andreev allegedly says that “[Muslims] are not in favour of any demilitarisation. We have applied considerable pressure on them, we told them that they were prepared to sacrifice their people for an intervention”.

Karnavas states that “Andreev’s behind-the-scenes activities are now obvious, casting doubt on the reliability of the evidence authored by, associated with or connected to Andreev”.

He further states that Judge Prandler “may give undue weight to evidence just because it is generated by or associated with Andreev”, which could “endanger Dr Prlic’s right to a fair trial by an impartial tribunal”.

“The inescapable question underlying the issue at hand is, therefore, a short one,” Karnavas concludes. “If Judge Prandler’s association with Andreev is innocuous and inconsequential to the proceedings, then why not transparently and voluntarily provide the necessary clarification? Doing otherwise does, regrettably, give the appearance that something is deliberately being concealed to avoid a challenge for disqualification.”

The judges have yet to respond to the request for a stay of proceedings or to the motion to disqualify Judge Prandler.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.


More IWPR's Global Voices