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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 21 November 2012

Date:  21.11.2012
Time: 12:00

Registry and Chambers:

Magdalena Spalinska, Spokesperson for Registry and Chambers, made the following statement:

Good afternoon,

The accreditation procedure for journalists wishing to cover the rendering of the judgement in the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj opened this morning. The judgement in the case of the three former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army charged with crimes committed in 1998 in Western Kosovo will be pronounced next Thursday, 29 November 2012 at 9:00 in Courtroom III. Journalists wishing to receive accreditation should email the press office by Tuesday, 27 November, 5:00 pm.

The date of the judgement in the case of Zdravko Tolimir has been set to Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 3:00 pm. Tolimir, former high ranking officer of the Bosnian Serb Army, is charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, as well as with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war committed between July and November 1995 against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and Žepa. The trial commenced on 26 February 2010 and concluded on 23 August 2012 after the Trial Chamber heard the parties’ closing arguments.

Turning to the courtrooms today, witness John Hamill, former UN military observer in Sarajevo, is testifying in the trial of Ratko Mladić. He is the 50th witness to be called by the Prosecution.

Hearings in the case of Goran Hadžić will resume tomorrow with the testimony of the 11th Prosecution witness.

Proceedings in the trial of Radovan Karadžić adjourned as scheduled last Thursday for a week and will resume next Tuesday, 27 November 2012, at 9:00 in Courtroom III. Proceedings are expected to resume with the continuation of the testimony of witness Miladin Trifunović, a former officer in the Serbian Territorial Defence in Sarajevo. He is the 24th witness to be called by the Defence.

Before concluding, I would like to inform you of the premiere of the ICTY Outreach Programme’s documentary on the ICTY’s endeavour to end impunity for wartime sexual violence. The event was held yesterday in Skopje, the capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A second screening of the documentary will take place this evening in Tetovo. The events have been organised in partnership with Macedonian NGO Civil - Center for Freedom. A press release containing further information on both events will be issued tomorrow morning.

Office of the Prosecutor:

Frederick Swinnen, Special Advisor to the Prosecutor, made the following statement:

In light of the numerous requests for interview we have received from journalists with regards to the Appeals Judgment in the Gotovina and Markač case, the Prosecutor will issue a statement later this afternoon.


Asked whether the Prosecutor’s statement would refer to Carla Del Ponte’s comments on the Appeals Judgement, Swinnen responded that the statement would reflect the opinion of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) which was a party in the proceedings, in relation to the Gotovina Appeal Judgement.

Asked why the legacy conference in Belgrade was postponed, Spalińska responded that the Tribunal was hoping that it would be held soon and that the decision on the new date of the conference would be taken in due time. She added that the conference forms part of a series of legacy conferences that have been held across the former Yugoslavia.

Asked whether the conference was postponed as a result of the verdict in the Gotovina and Markač case, Spalińska answered that there was no direct link between the two and emphasised that the Tribunal was hoping to hold it soon.

The following comment was added after the Press Briefing was held: The Tribunal has noted the statements of Serbian representatives in recent days stating that conferences and other outreach activities would not be supported. Spalińska therefore underlines that the success of outreach activities depends on the cooperation and goodwill of states in which activities are held.

Asked at whose initiative the conference was cancelled, Spalińska responded that the decision had been taken by the President in consultation with the Outreach Programme and the Registry.

Asked what kind of cooperation Serbia was still expected to provide the Tribunal, Swinnen explained that the OTP had a number of requests for assistance pending on a number of issues, including requests for information and for witnesses to appear in court. He explained that the cooperation of States was very important with regard to the ongoing trials, whether it was requests for documents, access to archives or facilitating the appearance of witnesses. Swinnen said that the cooperation had gone well up to now and that the OTP hoped it would continue. Swinnen pointed out that the issue of cooperation was addressed in the last report submitted to the UN Security Council and would be made public shortly before the Prosecutor and the President address the Security Council on 5 December 2012.

Asked whether the OTP had sought any clarifications on what the Serbian government meant when it announced it would reduce its cooperation with the Tribunal to the technical level, Swinnen responded that the OTP had been in touch with Serbian authorities and expected cooperation with regards to specific requests for assistance to continue. Swinnen said that the days and weeks to come would reveal the full nature of the status of cooperation with the OTP.

The statement of the Prosecutor in relation to the Gotovina and Markač Appeals Judgement was issued subsequently:

“My Office has carefully studied the Judgement rendered by the ICTY Appeals Chamber in the case of Gotovina and Markač on Friday 16 November 2012.

My Office is disappointed by the outcome of the Judgement, which reverses the convictions against Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markač entered unanimously by the three judges of the Trial Chamber. We are aware that those affected by crimes committed in connection with Operation Storm are not satisfied by the outcome and feel their suffering has not been acknowledged.

Throughout the appeal proceedings, my Office explained to the Appeals Chamber why we believe the evidence was sufficient to support the Trial Chamber’s convictions.

In the end, three out of the five Appeals Chamber judges saw it differently, resulting in the acquittal of Mr. Gotovina and Mr. Markač on all counts of the Indictment.

As a party to the proceedings, we have to respect the result of the Appeal Judgement.  International criminal justice – and the rule of law more generally– must rest on the fundamental building block of respect for the judicial process.

As in all cases, my Office will consider review proceedings if the necessary conditions are met.

We will also make sure that evidence collected by my Office will remain available to judicial authorities in the former Yugoslavia to facilitate national prosecutions for the crimes committed in connection with Operation Storm. We trust that the judicial authorities in Croatia will live up to their obligations. 

The dissenting opinions from two of the Appeals Chamber judges – Judge Agius and Judge Pocar – have identified important issues arising out of the Majority’s Judgement for the ICTY to reflect on. These issues have also been the focus of attention by commentators external to the ICTY in the days following the Judgement. The issues include ensuring coherent standards of appellate review, assessing the evidence on the record in its totality and giving appropriate deference to a trial chamber’s factual findings. 

Reflection on these matters is important and hopefully, in the end, will be a catalyst for further strengthening the international justice system.”


International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

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