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Press Release · Communiqué de presse

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

CC/PIO/207-E

The Hague, 2 June 1997

TADIC CASE: UPDATE

Witness Opacic appeals against the order that he be returned to the custody of Bosnia and Herzegovina


On Friday 30 May 1997, Mrs. Branislava Isailovic, Defence Counsel for Witness Dragan OPACIC, filed an appeal against the Order of 27 May by Trial Chamber II, that he be returned to the custody of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The Appellant claims his basic right of appeal against any legal decision concerning him and alleges the fear of mistreatment in a Bosnian prison "because of his nationality and of his failure as a prosecution witness offered by the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Tadic case".


The Appellant requests:


- that "the Decision of Trial Chamber II on 27 May 1997 be revised"*;


- that Dragan OPACIC remains in the custody of the International Tribunal "at least until the relevant authorities of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina have decided upon the revision of the judgement*" by which a Sarajevo court convicted Dragan OPACIC of genocide and war crimes, and sentenced him to 10 years.


Background on Witness OPACIC


Dragan Opacic was temporarily transferred at the Prosecutor's request into the jurisdiction and the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in June 1995.


He was to be remanded to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina "upon completion of his participation as a witness in the Prosecutor's investigation and any proceedings before the International Tribunal".


The proceedings before the Tribunal


Dragan OPACIC testified for the Prosecution on 14 and 15 August and 20 September 1996 in the trial of Dusko TADIC.


* unofficial translation from the original document in the French language


On 25 October 1996, the Prosecutor informed the Trial Chamber that she no longer regarded Dragan OPACIC as a witness of truth and invited the Judges to disregard his testimony.


On 10 December 1996, the Trial Chamber directed the Prosecutor to investigate "the matter of the presentation of false testimony by Dragan Opacic and evaluate the possibility of the preparation and submission of an indictment against him".


On 8 May 1997, the Prosecutor informed the Trial Chamber that she "did not consider that the case of Dragan Opacic was an appropriate case for prosecution under Rule 91 ["False testimony under solemn declaration"] of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence". Accordingly the Prosecutor requested "the return of Dragan Opacic to the custody of the Government of
Bosnia-Herzegovina".



The grounds for the Order


The Order of 27 May 1997 is based on the following grounds:


- the decision as to whether to prosecute for false testimony "rests solely with the Prosecutor and not with the Trial Chamber";


- a guarantee was given in June 1995 that Dragan OPACIC, being under a sentence of 10 years in Bosnia and Herzegovina, would be returned to the custody of Bosnia and Herzegovina upon completion of any proceedings before the International Tribunal;


- the denial of the request of the Counsel for Dragan OPACIC that the Prosecutor's Request for Return be rejected.


The Counsel alleged "reasons to fear that Dragan Opacic will suffer mistreatment in Bosnian penal institutions". However, the Trial Chamber expressed its "full confidence" that the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina will observe at all times the principle that "no person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane
or degrading treatment or punishment"
(Principle 6 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1988).