Legacy website of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Since the ICTY’s closure on 31 December 2017, the Mechanism maintains this website as part of its mission to preserve and promote the legacy of the UN International Criminal Tribunals.

 Visit the Mechanism's website.

ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 8th Sep 1999

ICTY Press Briefing - 8 September 1999

ICTY Weekly
Press Briefing

Date: 8 September 1999

Time: 11:30 a.m.


Christian Chartier, Head of Public Information Services said the following:

"First, a
number of follow-up matters:

As you can see,
Jim Landale is away from the Tribunal today. He is in Sarajevo, supporting the
informal visit being made by three Tribunal Judges, namely Judge May, Judge
Robinson and Judge Bennouna. The Judges met yesterday with members of the Cantonal
Court and attended a criminal trial; they also met with law professors and students
from the Sarajevo University. Today they are expected to have a meeting at the
Constitutional Court, with the Association of Judges in the Federation and with
the Association of Judges and Prosecutors in Republika Srpska. This is an orientation-visit,
initiated by the Coalition for International Justice and obviously designed
to create the beginning of a bridge between the International Tribunal and the
local justice system.

We informed you
in the Weekly Update issued last Friday that the Prosecutor filed a Motion to
be granted leave to amend the indictments against Kunarac and Kovac (Foca case).

Since then, Judge
Vohrah has disposed of this Motion and granted the requested leave. The Prosecutor
accordingly filed on 6 September an amended joint indictment. Copies will be
made available to you after the briefing.

In short: the
accused Kunarac and Kovac are now severed from their co-accused in the initial
Foca indictment and are jointly indicted. In relation to the accused Kovac,
initially charged with two counts of crimes against humanity for rape and enslavement,
the Prosecutor has added two counts of violations of the laws or customs of
war for rape and outrages upon personal dignity. With regard to Dragoljub Kunarac,
the Prosecutor has just deleted a reference to Additional Protocol II Art.4
of the Geneva Conventions.

The next legal
step is a further initial appearance of accused Kovac to enter a plea of guilty
or not guilty to the additional counts brought against him.

Meanwhile, defendant
Kovac has filed a Motion alleging defects in the form of the indictment. It
must be noted that this Motion, filed on 2 September, is directed against the
initial indictment; and that it was submitted by the accused himself in the
absence of an assigned Counsel.

The matter of
Defence Counsel for Kovac is still pending. On 14 August 1999, the defendant’s
wife gave a power of attorney to Mr. Milan Vujin to represent and defend her
spouse before the ICTY. However, on 19 August, the Deputy Registrar informed
the accused that the appointment of Mr. Vujin was impossible in light of the
on-going contempt proceedings he is the subject of. Although he was provided
with a list of other possible Defence Counsels, the defendant insisted on the
assignment of Mr. Vujin, and on 6 September, the Registrar confirmed the initial
decision to refuse the appointment of Mr. Vujin as counsel for accused Kovac.
This decision was motivated as follows: "the interests of justice do
not permit the assignment of a counsel as long as he is charged with contempt
of the Tribunal".

It is now for
the accused to request the assignment of another defence lawyer or to elect
in writing that he intends to conduct his own defence.

Copies of the
above mentioned Registrar’s Decision are also available to you.

Also available
are copies of the Decisions by Trial Chambers II and III to maintain the assignments
of Defence Counsels for defendant Cerkez and for the six defendants in the Kupreskic
and others case. This matter was covered by a press release issued earlier this

I would like to
turn now to new matters:

Late last week,
accused Mario Cerkez filed a Motion for provisional release. This Motion is
confidential. However it appears from a letter from the Croatian Embassy in
the Netherlands and from the Prosecution’s response to the Defence Motion,
which were filed as public documents, that defendant Cerkez seeks leave to visit
a family member in the hospital.

On the Defence
side, it should be noted that a letter from the Embassy of Croatia is attached
to the Motion stating that, if released, the accused will be under the permanent
control of the relevant authorities.

On the Prosecution
side, it should be noted that it opposes the Defence’s request. The matter
is now for the Trial Chamber to decide upon.

In the Kupreskic
and others case, three defendants have also filed motions for temporary release,
namely Zoran Kupreskic, Mirjan Kupreskic and Drago Josipovic. Zoran and Mirjan
Kupreskic would like to be able to visit their mother, who was taken into hospital
last month. Drago Josipovic, who was temporarily released a couple of days in
May to attend his mother’s funeral, now alleges that his two sons require
his presence and that the trial takes too long.

All three defendants
have secured guarantees from various authorities of the Federation of Bosnia
and Herzegovina to ensure their return into the Tribunal’s custody following
their release, if granted.

The Prosecutor
yesterday filed responses to these Motions, objecting to the release of all

And last but not
least… I must inform you with regret of the decision by Judge Antonio Cassese,
the first President of the ICTY between 1993 and 1997, to resign early next
year in order to resume his academic activities at Florence University. As President
McDonald pointed out in her letter to the Secretary General conveying Judge
Cassese’s resignation, quote: "Judge Cassese has rendered distinguished
service and critical leadership to the Tribunal", end of quote.

Let me add that
Judge Cassese’s extensive knowledge of international law, his exemplary
commitment to the institution, his vision of international justice, his deep
sense of duty and high ethics have been an enlightening inspiration to all of
us at the Tribunal. Copies of Press Release no. 435, regarding this matter are



Paul Risley, Spokesman for the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) had no announcements
to make.



Asked whether
the Croatian government had made available a copy of their "white paper"
concerning cooperation, to the United Nations and the International Community,
Paul Risley replied that no communication had been received as yet from
the Croatian Ambassador to The Hague. Perhaps the Croatians were waiting
for the return of Graham Blewitt, Deputy Prosecutor, early next week, he

Asked whether
the Tribunal was aware that "war crimes trials" had been held
in Croatia, Christian Chartier confirmed that the Tribunal was aware that
trials had taken place over the past few years, however, no number could
be given. The Tribunal could not specify whether the charges against the
accused fell within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and knew that most
of these trials were held in absentia, i.e. in the absence of the accused.

Asked whether
the current visit by the Judges of the Criminal Tribunal to Sarajevo was
the first visit of its kind, Chartier confirmed that this was the first
time that judges of the Tribunal had held meetings in the former Yugoslavia
with local Judges and Prosecutors. He added that the judges were there in
their private capacity and not on legal duties as a Trial Chamber. He recalled
that the President of the Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had
organized a symposium last year in November and that among the participants
were Judges from Bosnia and Croatia.

Asked whether
the visit was part of the Outreach program, Chartier confirmed that it was.

Asked for
a comment on the press reports in Belgrade concerning the Tribunal investigations
in Kosovo and in particular reports of unprofessional autopsies of Serb
victims, Risley replied that the Security Council yesterday discussed the
matter of the Tribunal and UNMIK in Kosovo including concerns raised by
the Russian Ambassador concerning specific sites investigated by, and continuing
to be investigated by the Tribunal.

Asked whether
the Security Council would have further discussions on the subject of Kosovo,
Risley replied that they were scheduled to do so. He added that these coincided
with the new Dutch presidency of the Security Council and the return of
Richard Holbrook from a visit to Kosovo, who would discuss his findings
with the Security Council next week. Risley reconfirmed that it was not
the policy of the Tribunal to provide details of matters under investigations.
In Kosovo, forensic teams were permitted to provide strictly limited details
of work upon conclusion at a particular site, and no more.

In this case,
a mass grave site at Llapushnica was discovered and secured by KFOR in the
US sector at the end of June, approximately 11 bodies were found, he said.
A team of Austrians and Icelandic investigators arrived in July and concluded
most of their investigations by the middle of August, however, their report
was not conclusive in providing identification of the victims. He added
that in most cases regarding investigations of mass grave sites in Kosovo,
villagers identified some of the victims, however, in this case no identifications
were made, adding to the possibility that the victims were Serb, as all
Serbs in that village had left. Many allegations had been made in Belgrade
and elsewhere that these victims were Serbs. The investigations would continue
at Llapushnica as they would at other sites of war crimes across Kosovo.
Allegations of a cover-up were unfounded, he concluded.

Asked whether
there were any developments on the "Tuta" case, Risley replied
that there were none to report.

Asked what
further steps the Registrar could take on the reversal of the Trial Chamber
decision to withdraw seven accused’s assignment of counsel, Chartier
replied that there was nothing further that the Registrar could do at this
stage. The initial decision was null and void, he added. Full rights were
re-established, backdated to the day they were withdrawn, he concluded.

Asked to confirm
that this was the final decision to be made, Chartier confirmed it was.
However, if further evidence substantiating the position that the accused
were no longer indigent became available to her, the Registrar could pursue
the issue further.

Asked whether
Russia’s concerns made to the Security Council were general or specifically
concerning the mass grave suspected to have contained Serb victims, Risley
replied that Miyet on behalf of the UN spoke to the Security Council and
general concerns were raised.

Asked for
a comment concerning the last Press release, in which a quote from Trial
Chambers’ Decisions expressed the "common knowledge that media
reports are not always reliable", Chartier replied that this statement
should not have been taken out of context, namely a legal decision made
on the basis of a legal finding. The Judges said that withdrawing the assignment
of Defence was a "drastic step" and held that, in light of this,
such a decision could only be based on "substantiated evidence":
press reports were not sufficient to meet this standard of proof.