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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 4 September 2013

Date: 4.09.2013
Time: 12:30

Registry and Chambers:

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

Good afternoon,

I’ll turn first to a series of decisions issued in the last week.

Vice-President of the Tribunal Judge Agius, who was assigned by President Meron to consider Šešelj's motion seeking the disqualification of Judge Frederik Harhoff, issued an order yesterday staying the assignment of another Judge to sit on the Šešelj bench. He requested the remaining Judges on this case to consult with the Accused on the question of whether to rehear the case or continue the proceedings, and to decide, in the event that Šešelj withholds his consent to the continuation of proceedings, whether or not to nonetheless continue the proceedings with a substitute Judge. Judge Agius issued his decision after last Wednesday’s finding of a specially appointed panel that Judge Frederik Harhoff had demonstrated an unacceptable appearance of bias in favour of conviction in a private letter he circulated on 6 June 2013. Judge Harhoff has been disqualified from the case of Vojislav Šešelj by this decision.

The remaining judges of the Trial Chamber, Presiding Judge Antonetti and Judge Lattanzi filed yesterday a request for urgent clarification, asking for the specially appointed panel to reveal whether or not it took into consideration the report of Presiding Judge Antonetti. The report has been made public today.

Judge Harhoff also filed a request yesterday asking the panel why the Presiding Judge Antonetti’s report and his own memorandum were not on the record when deciding his disqualification from the case. In addition, the Prosecution filed a request to Vice-President asking for the panel’s decision to be reconsidered, and in the meantime for his decision to be stayed.

In the case of Radovan Karadžić, the Chamber last Wednesday denied the Accused’s Motion, filed on 1 July 2013, to dismiss the indictment against him. In the Motion, Karadžić requested this dismissal on the grounds that the United Nations Security Council did not have the authority to establish the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals and that accordingly there is no legal entity to which he can appeal in the event he is convicted. The Chamber ruled that Karadžić ‘will have the right to appeal the judgement (…) to a legally constituted tribunal’, and that as such ‘the Accused’s right to a fair trial has not been presently infringed’.

Also last Wednesday, a public redacted version of President Meron’s Decision of 25 July 2013 was issued, in which the President granted in part Slobodan Praljak’s Motion for review of the Registrar’s decision to reimburse the costs for his Defence. President Meron found that the Registrar’s Decision on Means was reasonable and was made in conformity with the applicable legal provisions. The President also required the Registrar to apply to the relevant Chamber, which may then make an order to recover the costs of providing counsel.

I’ll move now to two early release decisions. Last Thursday, a public redacted version of the President’s decision of 10 July was issued, in which the President granted Dragoljub Ojdanić early release from the United Nations Detention Unit where he has been serving his 15-year sentence. While the President found that the high gravity of the crimes for which Ojdanić was convicted weighed against his early release, the President granted the application on the basis that the accused had served two-thirds of his sentence, had shown acceptance of his conviction and had demonstrated good and productive behaviour during detention.

Ojdanić, a former Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army, was found guilty on 26 February 2009 of two counts of aiding and abetting forcible transfer and deportation and other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity committed against the ethnic Albanian population living in Kosovo.

Late last week, Momčilo Krajišnik was granted early release from a prison in the UK following the President’s decision of 2 July 2013. In reaching his decision, while the President found that the high gravity of the crimes for which Krajišnik was convicted weighed against his early release, the Accused’s application was granted on the basis of his good behaviour during his detention, his demonstration of some rehabilitation and the fact that by 3 August 2013, he had served two-thirds of his sentence.

On 27 September 2006, Krajišnik, a former member of the Bosnian Serb leadership, was sentenced to 27 years of imprisonment by the Tribunal, for deportations, forcible transfer and persecution of non-Serb civilians committed during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was reduced to 20 years by the Appeals Chamber on 17 March 2009.

    I’ll turn now to two status conferences are scheduled to take place today. In the case of Mićo Stanišić and Stojan Župljanin, a status conference will be held at 3pm in Courtroom I. At 3:30pm a status conference will take place in courtroom III in the case of Nikola Šainović and others.

The trial of Ratko Mladić is scheduled for this week and next. Today, a military expert Richard Butler is testifying. This is the 137th witness to be called by the Prosecution.

In the case of Goran Hadžić, also sitting for the remainder of the week and next, witness Aleksandar Vasiljević, former Yugoslav Army officer, is currently testifying. He is the 72nd witness to be called by the Prosecution.

Office of the Prosecutor:

Ljiljana Pitesa, OTP Senior Information Assistant made no comment.


Asked what the next step was for the Šešelj case, Spalińska said that numerous submissions were filed yesterday and today and were now in front of the Tribunal’s Vice President Judge Agius. Spalińska added that the Vice President was considering them at the moment and he would take appropriate action in due course.

Asked if Šešelj would have say in whether or not his trial would continue, Spalińska replied that it was one of the Rules in the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence so it has to be followed and, therefore, he has the right to be consulted.

A journalist asked when discussing the continuation of the case were the judges talking about starting the case from scratch or about appointing a new judge who would then continue with the deliberations and possibly keeping on track with the scheduled judgement. Spalińska pointed out that in one of the recent filings it stated that it would mean rehearing the case or continuing the proceedings.

A journalist then asked if Šešelj refused and wouldn’t cooperate with the Tribunal then would the Tribunal stop the case especially since the accused has been in custody for 10 years, and let him go. Spalińska answered she would not like to speculate about it, and what was important now was to look at the Rules and wait for the Vice President and the Trial Chamber to do what they have to do at this point.

Asked if the Rules, as they exists now, covered the situation that has arisen in this case, Spalińska said that in the decision of the Vice President he said that the Rules in question do not actually provide for this specific situation and therefore the decisions and the considerations have to be taken guided by the rules and in the best interest of justice and this was happening now.

Asked which Rule from the Rules states that the accused must be consulted, Spalińska answered that she believed it was Rule 15bis but that the journalist could consult with her in detail afterwards.

Asked if Rule 15bis was actually for an absence of a judge, Spalińska replied that it was all very clearly laid-out in the Vice President’s decision as he referred to these rules.

A journalist pointed-out that today that in a memo submitted by Judge Antonetti  and Judge Latanzzi it was stated that both judges did not share the Vice President’s opinion about the Rule and what it says in Rule 15bis. Spalińska said that as the Vice President noted in his decision himself, the Rules do not cover the situation specifically we are finding ourselves in now.