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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 19 June 2013

Date: 19.06.2013
Time: 14:30

Registry and Chambers:

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

Good afternoon,

On Monday 17 June 2013, Judge Meron granted Zdravko Tolimir a 7-day extension for filing his appellant's brief, which is now to be filed by Friday, 28 June 2013. Tolimir, former Assistant Commander and Chief for Intelligence and Security of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), was sentenced in December 2012 to life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 1995 after the fall of the enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The next Status Conference will be held on Friday, 5 July 2013 at 11 a.m. in Courtroom II. 

Onto the activities in the courtrooms, hearings in the trials of Ratko Mladić, Goran Hadžić and Radovan Karadžić continue this week and next as scheduled:

In the case of Radovan Karadžić, the Chamber is currently hearing the testimony of Bogdan Subotić, former Minister of Defence of Republika Srpska. He is the 150th witness to be called by the Defence. 

In the case of Ratko Mladić, Dragomir Keserović, former Republika Srpska Army officer, is currently testifying about the events in Srebrenica in July 1995, when he was in the Security Administration of the VRS’s Main Staff. He is the 108th witness to be called by the Prosecution.

In the case of Goran Hadžić, the Chamber is currently hearing the testimony of John McElligott, former member of the UN forces in Croatia. He is the 54th Prosecution witness in court so far.

Office of the Prosecutor:

Aleksandar Kontić, member of the Prosecutor’s Immediate Office, made no statement.


Asked for a reaction or statement to the petition started by the Association of Victims for an independent UN investigation into the Tribunal and President Meron, Spalinska said that this was connected with the recent news regarding a personal letter from ICTY Judge Harhoff’s and on behalf of the Tribunal’s Registry and Chambers there would be no comment on any aspect of the story.

Asked if a rule existed in the Tribunal’s Rules about a judge expressing dissatisfaction with the work of other judges, Spalinska answered that she was not aware of a written rule about public dissatisfaction expressed by judges. She added if you look in detail into the Tribunal’s Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence about the status of judges, there was no specific address of this kind of dissatisfaction.

Asked if Rule 77 of the Tribunals’ Rules of procedure and evidence could be applied in this case, Spalinska declined to comment.

A journalist asked what the President or Chambers would be doing to restore the credibility of the ICTY and confidence in the ICTY’s decisions and judgements. Spalinska answered that she would not comment on any aspect of this story.

Asked if this situation with Judge Harhoff has lead OTP to consider some sort of judicial review of for example the Gotovina and Markač Appeals Chamber judgement or the Stanišić and Simatović judgement, Kontić pointed out not per se but that OTP had a year for the review applications so it was still going on. He added that OTP hadn’t been considering this as something to which the OTP should react.

Asked if OTP had planned to ask for any investigation into allegations made in this leaked letter, Kontić declined to comment.

Asked if this meant that OTP would or would not ask for an investigation, Kontić declined to comment.

A journalist asked for the Prosecutor’s reaction to the letter, since according to his speech to the Security Council it seemed that he expressed dissatisfaction with the decisions expressed in Judge Harhoff’s letter. Kontić said that the Prosecutor, after the Gotovina judgement, had made a public statement about his dissatisfaction of the outcome but as previously said there would be no comment on the judicial decisions.  Kontić repeated that any review application could be made a year after the pronouncement of the final judgement.

Asked when exactly the next presidential elections would take place, Spalinska said that a specific date had not yet been set but that the press would be informed as soon as information was received on this.

Asked for a reaction about the New York Times article stating that there were other presidential candidates planning to run opposite President Meron, Spalinska said that this was an internal issue on which the judges would decide and that she was not free to comment on such issues.  She added that the judges elect a president amongst themselves and this procedure would be followed this time in the same way as has been the case in the past.

A journalist asked if President Meron was prepared to address this situation adding that it would be good if he did as it seemed to be damaging the Tribunal. Spalinska stated that at this point the President was not making any comment on this situation.

Asked if a body exists before which the Tribunal’s judges can mutually address grievances, Spalinska pointed out that the judges are constantly in contact with each other and with the President. She undertook to get back to the journalist on the issue of whether or not such a specific body exists. Spalinska reiterated that the President is available to address any issues relevant presented to him through official channels.

Asked what would occur if the President was the party involved in a publicly expressed grievance and if the decision as to whether or not to address it would be left for him to decide, Spalinska confirmed that this would be for the President to decide.

A journalist pointed out that it seemed the position of the Registry, Chambers and Prosecution was not to comment on the situation. Asked how this complied with an institution that prides itself with applying the highest standards of transparency and accountability and follows legal standards, Spalinska reiterated that there would be no comment on a private letter that had been leaked to the press.

Asked if this was the Spokesperson’s decision or that of the institution, Spalinska said that it was the institution’s decision not comment on this issue.

And who had taken this decision on behalf of the institution, Spalinska said that she was relaying this information on behalf of the President, Chambers and Registry who she represents.

A journalist stated that the fact a judge sent a private letter in which he criticized the President could be seen as a public protest and that he possibly felt unable to address the situation with the President himself. Spalinska said that she would not speculate on this issue.

Asked for the OTP’s position regarding the confidential cables from the US embassy in which President Meron asked for support of his government to undermine the position of former Chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte and prevent her re-election, Kontić said that this would be a question to ask the people involved.  He added that this question had been addressed to the prosecutor’s office earlier and the OTP declined to comment at the time and their position remains the same.

A journalist said that the last time Wikileaks published cables from the American embassy in which the former DU commander Tim McFadden had commented on Slobodan Milosevic’s health, the Tribunal set up an investigation led by Judge Orie or he had looked into it and concluded that this might be the subject of a disciplinary measure rather than a contempt of court issue. Asked if we could expect something similar in this case since President Meron was quoted in the cable, Spalinska said at this point there was no information on plans to set up a committee of this nature. She added that if there was any change to this situation, the public would be informed.

Asked if this situation would affect the Šešelj judgment in October since Judge Harhoff sits on the case, Spalinska said the judgement had been scheduled to be pronounced on 30 October and this date remained unchanged.

Asked what would happen theoretically if Judge Harhoff resigned before the judgement, Spalinska said she would not speculate on this issue.