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

Tadic Fires His Dutch Lawyer

Tribunal Update 25: Last Week in The Hague (April 21-25, 1997)
By IWPR ICTY

The Trial Chamber, (Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald presiding, and judges Sir Ninian Stephen and Datak Wira Lal Vorah) granted both requests on April 22, 1997, concluding that "the trial . . . has been completed and is awaiting issue of judgement and thus the withdrawal of counsel will not in any way delay the current proceedings."

In his request, Tadic did not cite the reasons which led him to his decision, but a statement made the same day by the Dutch law firm Wladimiroff & Spong shed some more light on this bizarre affair. According to this statement, "Tadic, on the advice of authorities of the former Yugoslavia, wishes to instruct additional parties (i.e. Mr Vujin) to act on his behalf with those previously instructed and this is not a situation Professor Wladimiroff and his team are willing to accept."

Therefore, Tadic discharged Wladimiroff and, consequently, two British barristers-Steven Kay and Sylvia de Bertodano-have resigned as co-counsel for his defence. The law firm also stated that Tadic had "expressed his great satisfaction and thanks to all members of the defence team who have acted on his behalf during the trial."

Wladimiroff has declined any further comment, except that, on Tribunal Update's insistence he defined to some extent who the "authorities of the former Yugoslavia" were. In theory, he conceded, that may refer to the authorities in all the states and entities that emerged after the former federation disintegrated, but it is clear that "only some of them, or some combination, would have an interest in this case." He did not say it, but he implied, that this could be the authorities of Republika Srpska and the FRY.

That the FRY authorities are not indifferent to the Tadic case was confirmed by an incident at the UN Detention Unit in Scheveningen on Sunday, 20 April. One of the guards, after a brief dispute with the accused, smashed a cell door into Tadic's face. He did that "not just figuratively, but literally," according to the Tribunal spokesman, Christian Chartier. The result was a large bump on Tadic's forehead.

The Tribunal ordered an investigation, while the FRY embassy in The Hague submitted an official protest to the ICTY for "inhumane treatment of a prisoner." Asked on what basis the protest had been made-given that Tadic is not a citizen of FRY, but of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its entity, the RS-the chargé d'affaires at the Yugoslav embassy in The Hague, Djordje Lopicic, said that, "according to the Constitution, our mission [i.e., the mission of the Yugoslav diplomatic corps] is to protect all the Serbs in the world!"