ICJ Media Review: President of Kosovo Court announces approval of Rules of Procedure and Evidence
MICT hears testimony that alleged joint enterprise of Milosevic with Stanisic and Simatovic did not command Serbs outside Serbia
On 28 June, Prosecution witness John Wilson testified in front of the judges of the Mechanism for International Tribunals in the Hague (MICT) on the alleged involvement of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic in a joint criminal enterprise led by Slobodan Milosevic. The indictment against Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service (SDB), and his assistant Simatovic, alleges that the two were involved in the implementation of an alleged joint criminal enterprise led by Milosevic, aimed at forcibly removing Croats and Muslims from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. While the Prosecution witness, who was the chief of the UN military observers in 1992 and 1993, told the court that Milosevic had “an efficient influence” over Serb leaders in Croatia and BBosnia-Herzegovina he also clarified that he had not suggested that Milosevic was officially liable for the actions of Serb leaders outside Serbia.
Wilson’s testimony echoes the submission of Stanisic’s defence lawyer, who claims that local Serb leaders involved in the alleged crimes were not subordinates of the Belgrade leadership, as the indictment claims. During the cross-examination, the witness also confirmed a claim by Stanisic’s lawyer that at the time, Milosevic seemed more inclined to put the leaders of the rebel Croatian Serb self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska under pressure to make them accept international plans in order to lift sanctions against Serbia.
According to the witness, that is what led to the “deterioration” of relations between Milosevic and Serb leaders in Croatia and Bosnia. In 2013, the ICTY Trial Chamber acquitted Stanisic and Simatovic of their war crimes charges. The ICTY Appeals Chamber later overturned their acquittal in December 2015, and ordered a retrial due to a number of serious legal and factual errors that were found in the first trial. (Balkan Insight)
President of Kosovo Court announces approval of Rules of Procedure and Evidence
On 28 June, Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova, President of the newly established Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution (KRSJI), announced the approval of the court’s rules of procedure and evidence. The KRSJI, created by the government of Kosovo in agreement with the European Union and based in The Hague, has been set up to try members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) for alleged crimes committed between 1998-2000 against ethnic minorities and political opponents. The official approval of the court’s rules is a crucial step forward which allows the Prosecution to start issuing indictments. “Within seven days as of today, there will be no legal impediment to receive any filing or indictment from the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office,” confirmed Judge Trendafilova in a statement. (ABCNews)
UN criticised decision to drop CAH charges against 7 DRC men for killing of civilians
The Director of the UN Joint Human Rights Office and Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the DRC has released a statement criticising the decision of a DRC military tribunal not to prosecute seven soldiers for crimes against humanity. The decision was made by prosecutors on 24th June 2017, prompting the UN to remark that the prosecution would have sent “a strong signal in the direction of those who are implicated in the violence in Kasai” and further that “prosecuting these crimes is a way of preventing other legal violations and further excessive use of force by the armed forces.”
The charges had originally been brought against the soldiers after a video emerged showing men in uniforms opening fire on civilians and allegedly committing acts of mutilation. Though the crimes against humanity charges have been dropped, charges of murder will still be brought and it is thought that jail terms up to life imprisonment will be sought against two majors, a captain, lieutenant and a sergeant major. (eNCA)
Cambodian tribunal closes investigation of Yim Tith
After eight years of investigation, the co-investigative judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) announced the conclusion of their investigation into Yim Tith’s alleged involvement with the Democratic Kampuchea regime. Yim Tith was alleged to have held a “mid-rank position in the regime and was accused of crimes against humanity including the persecution of Khmer Krom and Vietnamese people”. Parties have 15 days to launch complaints about the decision and request further investigation.
Yim Tith was, along with other high-profile of the Khmer Rouge regime such as Ao An and Im Chaem, a suspect in case 004. Last February, the investigative judges considered that Im Chaem’s case was not “within the court’s jurisdiction as she was not considered a senior Khmer Rouge regime official”. Regretting the closing of these cases after such a long investigation, a court observer and a human rights worker from Cambodia denounced that these decisions were caused by a lack of funding and political will and an increase in political pressure, considering that parties would not get justice at the ECCC “so long as the problems persisted”. (VOA Cambodia)
Dutch court finds Dutch Government partially responsible for 350 deaths at Srebrenica
A Dutch appeals court largely upheld a 2014 domestic ruling finding the Netherlands (NL) responsible for the deaths of 350 Bosnian Muslim men in the Srebrenica massacre as Dutch peacekeepers (the Dutchbat) handed them over to the Bosnian Serb army in July 1995 while knowing the dangers they faced. Judge Gepke Dulek said “Dutchbat knew that the men ran a real risk of inhumane treatment or execution” but considered that NL should only be responsible for 30% of damages, as there was “a 70% likelihood the male refugees would have been dragged from the safety of the base whatever the peacekeepers had done” and “would have been killed regardless”. While exact numbers are unknown, ICRC and ICTY say that it stands between 7,000 and 8,000 of Bosniaks murdered at Srebrenica. The July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys was considered Europe’s worst since World War Two (BBC, Telegraph)
ECCC accused, Samphan, gives closing remarks; Chea does not attend
In Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan drawing to a close at the ECCC, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan delivered his closing remarks on 23 June 2017. In particular, Samphan stated that the charges he faced had been fabricated by Vietnam; denied knowledge of forced marriages, executions, and starvations; and stated “I want to bow to the memory of all the innocent victims but also to all those who perished by believing in a better ideal of the brighter future and who died during the five-year war… Their memory will never be honored by any international tribunal.”
Co-defendant Nuon Chea did not appear in court, and his defence team stated that the tribunal had become a “deeply flawed and broken institution” and a product of “victor’s justice.” No date has yet been set for the delivery of the ECCC’s final judgment in this case, though it is thought that the decision could take up to a year. (Jurist, Phnom Penh Post)
Legal Documentation Centre opened in Phnom Penh on Khmer Rouge atrocities
On 28 June, the official opening of the Legal Documentation Centre was held in Phnom Penh, which will house a lot of documents produced from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which has tried senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. The Centre consists of legal and historical archives, a library and of a “virtual tribunal”. The Centre was inaugurated by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, who has been recently appointed as the head of the government’s task force on the Khmer Rouge trials, and who took the opportunity to open up about the hardship he witnessed first-hand under the Khmer Rouge. (Phnom Penh Post)
Photos: ICC-CPI/Flickr and DennisHH