Tribunal dismisses Goran Hadžić’s motion for acquittal
Trial Chamber II today dismissed Goran Hadžić’s motion for acquittal on charges from eight counts of the indictment against him.
The Chamber’s oral ruling was delivered pursuant to Rule 98 bis of the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which states that, after the close of the Prosecutor's case, the Trial Chamber shall, by oral decision, and after hearing the oral submissions of the parties, enter a judgement of acquittal on any count if there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction.
Hadžic, former President of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, is charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war committed in Croatia from June 1991 to December 1993. The Defence requested acquittal on specific charges contained within counts 2 through 9 of his indictment.
The Chamber dismissed the Defence’s submission on the scope of Rule 98 bis. The Defence claimed that the Rule allows the Chamber to look within counts in the indictment to examine whether an accused may be acquitted on a portion of a count. The Chamber carefully examined the approaches taken by other ICTY trial chambers in relation to motions for acquittal. It then ruled that—based on the legislative history of Rule 98 bis and the settled practice of the trial chambers to entertain motions for judgement of acquittal in respect of entire counts and not individual charges within a count—it was appropriate to consider such motions only with regard to entire counts, rather than charges within a count. Since the Defence had not challenged any count in its entirety, there was no possibility of acquittal on an entire count. Therefore, the Chamber dismissed the Defence motion.
Despite this dismissal, the Chamber considered Defence challenges in relation to specific incidents in Opatovac, Lovas, Velepromet and Ovčara. The Chamber found that the Prosecution had presented sufficient evidence on the basis of which the Chamber could find that crimes were committed. Similarly, the Chamber concluded that the Prosecution had adduced sufficient evidence upon which a chamber could find that Hadžić participated in a joint criminal enterprise, as alleged in the indictment. Accordingly, the Chamber held that, even if it had adopted the charges approach to Rule 98 bis—as advocated by the Defence—it still would have denied the motion of the Defence in its entirety.
The Chamber stressed that the presence of evidence capable of sustaining a conviction does not mean that the Trial Chamber will enter a conviction at the end of the case.
Goran Hadžić was initially indicted on 4 June 2004. After having been at-large for almost seven years, he was arrested on 20 July and transferred to the Tribunal on 22 July 2011. His trial commenced on 16 October 2012 and the Prosecution concluded its case on 17 October 2013, subject to the Chamber’s decision on the Prosecution’s motion for the admission of documents from the bar table, which was issued on 28 November 2013.
On 16 December 2013, the Defence orally presented its motion pursuant to Rule 98 bis. The Prosecution responded on 18 December 2013.
Since its establishment, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. Proceedings against 141 have now been concluded.