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The Hague, 1 October 1996
Celebici case update 3 : Accused will be tried jointly.
Trial Chamber rejects applications for separate trials.
The four accused in the Celebici indictment will be tried jointly after motions for separate trials were unanimously rejected.
In a decision handed down on 25 September 1996, Trial Chamber II held that "the accused have been properly joined and no showing of a conflict of interests has been made nor any prejudice to the interests of justice".
The Trial Chamber stated that "[t]here is no provision in the Rules for separate trial of distinct issues arising in the one indictment". The Trial Chamber can order separate trials only if it is 'necessary in order to avoid a conflict of interests that might cause serious prejudice to an accused, or to protect the interests of justice'.
The Chamber considered the position of all four accused in the Celebici indictment, all of whom have filed motions for separate trials, although Mucic ndicated during an oral hearing that he did not in fact oppose a joint trial.
No Conflict of Interests
In his motion, Delalic claimed that the presentation at his trial of evidence against the other accused charged as direct perpetrators would prejudice his case. Delalic, who is charged with command responsibility, had pleaded for a separate trial which would simply determine whether he was in fact in a position of superior authority such as would engage his command responsibility under Article 7(3) of the Statute.
Trial Chamber II held, however, that the accused had not established a conflict of interests. "As it developed in argument, what this accused was seeking was not so much a separate trial on the present indictment but rather a preliminary and separate trial confined to the sole issue of command responsibility, a procedure which (. . .) is not contemplated in the Rules (. . .)."
The Chamber found similarly that, in the case of Delic, what was sought in the motion for severance was in fact a preliminary and separate trial which would consider only the accused's command responsibility and, thereafter, a second trial which would determine his individual responsibility. The accused had stated that he had no objection to being tried jointly with Landzo in the second trial. The Chamber held, however, that no conflict of interest had been established.
Regarding Landzo, the court held that the accused, who had indicated that he did not wish to be tried along with Delali} and Mucic, although he would not object to being joined with Delic, had not demonstrated a conflict of interests.
The Chamber did not need to consider whether a conflict of interests arises in the case of Mucic, as he has already indicated that he does not now seek severance.
The Need to Protect the Interests of Justice
The Chamber also found that rather than the interests of justice being compromised by a joint trial, they would "clearly [be] best served by one joint trial. (. . .) [S]eparate trials (. . .) would in toto be likely to involve much greater delay, at least for those unfortunate enough not to be the first to be tried. They would also mean considerable repetition of evidence (. . .) What all this would involve for witnesses, for the Prosecution, and, indeed, for the functioning of the International Tribunal and the disposition of other cases, is so obvious as to need no exposition."
It added that "separate trials would involve much duplication of testimony and great hardship for already traumatised witnesses". In the context of the International Tribunal, where the Judges are triers of both law and fact, the Judges would have to hear the same witnesses giving the same testimony more than once, on each occasion trying to weigh it with minds unaffected by their prior conclusions reached on that evidence. It concluded that "to grant (. . .) separate trials (. . .) would (. . .) be distinctly adverse to the interests of justice".
No Preliminary Trials
Finally, the Trial Chamber considered the request made by several of the accused for preliminary trials. While noting that Rule 82(B) provides only for separate trials as an alternative to joint trials, the Trial Chamber observed that, even if such trials were possible, there was no certainty that they would expedite proceedings, and that they might instead result in considerable delay, at least for those defendants who had to await the results of those initial trials before any second trial or trials could get underway. "[T]he speedy disposition of the command responsibility issue seems slight [as it] is unlikely to turn upon mere proof of the holding or not holding of some particular office."
Until they are released on the ICTY Home page, the above-mentioned motions, responses and Decisions can be ordered from the Press and Information Office, as well as the "Decision on Defence application for forwarding the documents in the language of the accused" (25 September 1996) and the "Decision on the motion by the accused Zejnil Delalic for the disclosure of evidence" (26 September 1996).
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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