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Tadic Testifies Against His Former Counsel

A convicted war criminal accuses his former lawyer of misrepresenting him, and takes the stand to level charges.

The former Defence counsel of Dusko Tadic, Belgrade lawyer Milan Vujin, last week found himself in a position of defending himself before the Appeals Chamber from accusations laid on him by his former client and his new Defence counsels, British barristers William Clegg Q.C. and John Livingston.

Last February they accused Vujin of working against the best interests of defendant Tadic while serving as his Defence counsel in the early stage of his trial. The Appeals Chamber at the time refused to accept this as the grounds for Tadic's appeal on verdict and sentence (see Tribunal Update No. 110), but had at the same time decided to examine the allegations and find out whether Vujin could be held in contempt of the Tribunal. The first hearing, scheduled for 30 March, was postponed due to Vujin's non-attendance on grounds of being prevented from travelling abroad due to "NATO aggression" (see Tribunal Update No. 119).

The new hearing was rescheduled for 26 April, and - even though NATO's "aggression" was continuing in full swing - Vujin appeared before the Appeals Chamber, with an explanation that due to the state of war, he was only able to stay in The Hague for three days.

The first witness at the contempt hearing was Dusan Tadic himself. He told the judges that he did not commit crimes for which he was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, and that he always wanted to reveal the truth about the events in Prijedor and the near-by prison-camps of Omarska and Keraterm, but that his Defence counsel, Milan Vujin prevented him from doing so. Vujin's principal aim, Tadic said, was to prevent the appearance before the Tribunal of witnesses or evidence that could implicate "important personalities" in the Republika Srpska or the FR Yugoslavia.

This is why Vujin, his former client maintains, instructed witnesses on matters they were to speak about and on others they were to remain quiet about. Vujin allegedly also agreed with the witnesses on certain "signals" he would give them before asking them for yes or no answers before the Tribunal. Moreover, he also allegedly prevailed upon witnesses to give false testimonies and paid cash to those who gave good answers. Those who testified unsatisfactorily were given nothing.

According to Tadic's statement, Vujin kept Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic informed of all details of the defendant's statements given to the investigators at The Hague. Karadzic and Mladic were, in turn, supposedly unhappy about Tadic "talking too much about the role of crisis headquarters."

Prosecutor Michael Keegan, who conducted the interviews in question, asked Tadic how, if he was subject to Vujin's influence, there were no discrepancies between his testimony given in the presence of his Defence counsel and those given without him being there. Tadic's reply was that there were discrepancies, to which Keegan replied that whether there were or not was entirely up to the judges.

Tadic further claims that Vujin handed over to Simo Drljaca, the notorious chief of Police in Prijedor, the list of Defence witnesses. Drljaca, who was himself indicted for crimes that took place in Prijedor and prison-camps of Omarska and Keraterm, and who was killed during an attempt at his arrest by the British special forces in July 1997 (or 98????).

Tadic accuses Vujin of not wanting to hear the testimonies of Mladen Radic and Miroslav Kvocka - who are currently in detention awaiting their trial for their alleged crimes at the Omarska prison camp - and who "would have been able to say the truth about real perpetrators of the crimes" for which Tadic was convicted. On one particular occasion when Tadic wanted to reveal the names of real perpetrators, Vujin allegedly advised him: "We haven't done anything if one person comes out of jail and another goes in."

Of particular interest was that part of Tadic's testimony which related to the role of Djordje Lopicic, former charge d'affaires of the Yugoslav Embassy at The Hague. When Tadic unexpectedly discharged his Dutch-British Defence team in late April 1997, and engaged Vujin, his then lead-counsel Michail Wladimiroff in his short statement to the press said that the defendant took that action "on the advice of the authorities of the former Yugoslavia." (see Tribunal Update No. 25).

Two weeks later, during the pronouncement of the judgment, on 7 May 1997, Tadic's new Defence counsel Milan Vujin was accompanied by a new legal assistant, Jelena Lopicic, the daughter of the above-mentioned former charge d'affaires. It all then looked like an agreement between friends whereby Tadic was persuaded by Lopicic senior to take on Vujin as his new Defence counsel, on tacit understanding that Vujin would in turn employ Lopicic's daughter as his assistant.

Tadic last week also confirmed that he engaged Vujin "under the influence of Lopicic", who used to visit him at the detention centre. On one such occasion, Tadic alleges that Yugoslav charge d'affaires openly told him that the interests of Yugoslavia were more important than his personal fate. This was due to the fact that the Tribunal's decision on the involvement of FRY in the war in Bosnia could have had a negative bearing on the case of "Bosnia- Herzegovina versus FR Yugoslavia," which was before the International Court of Justice. The government of Bosnia and Herzegovina had taken FRY to ICJ in 1993 over the alleged genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the hearings in connection with this case are expected to begin next year.

Following Tadic's testimony, the contempt hearing went into a closed session, and on Wednesday, due to Vujin's other duties as the President of the Serbian Bar Association, it was broken up without a date being set for the continuation.