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Zdravko Tolimir Warned that Disruptive Conduct will lead to Imposition of Defence Counsel

Press Release
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

The Hague, 30 June 2008

Tolimir Warned that Disruptive Conduct will lead to Imposition of Defence Counsel

Zdravko Tolimir was warned on Monday by the Pre-Trial Judge that further obstruction to the proper conduct of proceedings would result in an order being issued for the appointment of defence counsel to represent him.   

Tolimir, a former senior intelligence officer with the rank of General in the Bosnian Serb Army, was charged by the Prosecution with a range of crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. He was transferred to the Tribunal’s custody in June 2007 and has insisted on conducting his own defence. Over the course of the last year Tolimir has refused to accept court and Prosecution material provided to him, arguing that he cannot read Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian (BCS) in the Latin script in which it is written.

Tolimir’s request to receive material in the “Serbian language in the Cyrillic script” has already been dismissed by the Pre-Trial Judge Kimberly Prost by oral decision of 11 December 2007, on the basis that she was satisfied that Tolimir is able to read and understand the documents that have been served on him. Tolimir’s appeal of the decision and a request for reconsideration were dismissed by the Appeals Chamber on 28 March and on 18 June 2008 respectively.

Judge Prost advised Tolimir that his continuing refusal of documents in the face of the Tribunal rulings amounted to persistent and obstructive conduct which impinged directly on the ability to conduct a fair trial. Moreover, she noted the Appeals Chamber’s findings in the Šešelj case that the right to self-representation is not an absolute one, that this right may be curtailed in “appropriate circumstances” such as where “a defendant’s self-representation is substantially and persistently obstructing the proper and expeditious conduct of his trial”. She further noted that the Appeals Chamber had found that “an accused should be duly warned before restricting his right to self-representation, so that the accused is fully and fairly informed and is afforded the opportunity to change the disruptive circumstances”. With these authorities in mind, Judge Prost gave Tolimir a last warning.

Judge Prost told Tolimir that unless he instructs the Registry by Friday 4 July 2008 that he is prepared to accept all material which has been and will be provided to him in BCS in either script, the Trial Chamber will order the appointment of counsel.

A former close aide to wartime Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladić, Tolimir is indicted for, among other things, genocide and extermination allegedly carried out in the summer of 1995 by Serb forces against Bosnian Muslims in the areas of Srebrenica and Žepa.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

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