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accused's right to be tried without undue delay by refusing to adjourn the trial
due to the temporary unavailability of one of the three judges.
Blaskic case: the trial chamber confirms the fundamental principle of the accused’s right to be tried without undue delay by refusing to adjourn the trial
due to the temporary unavailability of one of the three judges
In order to avoid adjourning the Blaskic Trial because of the temporary unavailability of Judge Fouad Riad, Trial Chamber I (with Judge Claude JORDA presiding), made an innovative use of Rule 71 of the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE) during the hearings on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 February 1998.
Rule 71 (quoted in its full text at the bottom of this release) provides that a Trial Chamber may, in exceptional circumstances, appoint a presiding officer for the purpose of a deposition being taken for use at trial.
Having been seized on 18 February 1998 of motions to this end filed by both the Prosecution and the Defence, the Trial Chamber held that the temporary unavailability of Judge Riad “must in no event prejudice the accused’s right to be judged without excessive delay”.
A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE
The Trial Chamber was prompted by the same fundamental principle when it decided in December 1997 to focus the examination and cross-examination of witnesses on the points essential for the understanding of the facts, and to limit the time allocated to the Parties to present their evidence (thirty-nine hearing days for the Prosecution starting from January, and sixty days for the Defence, when its turn arrives).
RECOURSE TO ORIGINAL PRACTICAL MEASURES
Moved by the same awareness of judicial urgency, the Trial Chamber decided to make an innovative use of Rule 71 in order to hear, at the previously scheduled dates, the deposition of Prosecution witnesses AA, BB and CC, notwithstanding Judge Riad’s absence.
As a result, at the hearings of 19 and 20 February 1998:
- at the request of the counsel for the defendant, Judges JORDA and SHAHABUDDEEN acted in their capacity as Officers appointed to take the depositions of the witnesses, it being
understood that the record of the deposition will be transmitted to the Trial Chamber in its full composition;
- the depositions of the witnesses were taken in a manner similar to the way in which witness testimony is heard in the course of a trial: the protective measures previously ordered were applied and the Defence’s right to cross-examination was respected;
- the Judges, the members of the Office of the Prosecutor, the Defence attorneys and the members of the Registry took part in the hearings in plain clothes.
(A) At the request of either party, a Trial Chamber may, in exceptional circumstances and in the interests of justice, order that a deposition be taken for use at trial, and appoint, for that purpose, a Presiding Officer.
B) The motion for the taking of a deposition shall be in writing and shall indicate the name and whereabouts of the person whose deposition is sought, the date and place at which the deposition is to be taken, a statement of the matters on which the person is to be examined, and of the exceptional circumstances justifying the taking of the deposition.
(C) If the motion is granted, the party at whose request the deposition is to be taken shall give reasonable notice to the other party, who shall have the right to attend the taking of the deposition and cross-examine the person whose deposition is being taken.
(D) Deposition evidence may also be give by means of video- conference.
(E) The Presiding Officer shall ensure that the deposition is taken in accordance with the Rules and that a record is made of the deposition, including cross-examination and objections raised by either party for decision by the Trial Chamber. He shall transmit the record to the Trial Chamber.
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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