(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document.)
The Hague, 29 August 2013

Judge Harhoff disqualified from Šešelj case

The Chamber appointed by order of the Vice-President yesterday found by majority, Judge Liu dissenting, that Judge Frederik Harhoff had demonstrated an unacceptable appearance of bias in favour of conviction. He is therefore disqualified from the case of Vojislav Šešelj.

The Chamber’s decision follows Vojislav Šešelj’s defence motion of 9 July 2013 seeking the disqualification of Judge Harhoff from the bench in his case, on the basis of a letter that the Judge wrote dated 6 June 2013. The Defence contended that the letter showed the Judge’s bias in the current proceedings.

The Majority, Judge Liu dissenting, concluded that by “referring to a “set practice” of convicting accused persons without reference to an evaluation of the evidence in each individual case” Judge Harhoff had demonstrated an unacceptable appearance of bias. The Chamber also noted in this context that no specific reference to the accused was required to reach the conclusion of an unacceptable appearance of bias.

The Majority, Judge Liu dissenting, further ruled that the appearance of bias could also be perceived in Judge Harhoff’s contention that he was confronted by a “professional and moral dilemma”, which in the view of the Majority, was a reference to his difficulty in applying the current jurisprudence of the Tribunal.

Judge Frederick Harhoff circulated a private letter to 56 people on 6 June 2013. The letter then became publicly available through the media and internet. In the letter, the Judge criticised a number of recent Appeals Chamber and Trial Chamber Judgements of the Tribunal and claimed that the President of the Tribunal was exerting pressure on his colleagues in deliberations.

Following Vojislav Šešelj’s motion seeking the disqualification of Judge Harhoff from all further proceedings, the President of the Tribunal withdrew on 23 July 2013 and assigned the Vice-President, pursuant to Rule 22(A) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, to consider the motion in his place. The Chamber was appointed on 25 July 2013 by the ICTY Vice-President to decide on Šešelj’s defence motion, and to report that decision to him.

Vojislav Šešelj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, is on trial before the Tribunal for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between 1991 and 1994 against the non-Serb population from large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Vojvodina, Serbia. Šešelj’s trial commenced on 7 November 2007, and the Trial Chamber Judgement is scheduled to be delivered on 30 October.