Monthly Archives: March 2016

Is the ICTY ashamed by its own Seselj judgment?

Today, the ICTY issued its Judgment in the Seselj case. The Judgment of acquittal on all counts came as a shock to many observers. Followers of this blog will know that I believed Seselj should have been released years ago, when one of the Judges on the Trial Chamber, Judge Harhoff, was recused (see here, here, and here). I’ll return to the content of the Judgment in the coming days. One thing that struck me today is how the ICTY communications office has dealt with the acquittal.

If you look at the home page of the ICTY, there is no mention of the outcome of the Judgment, despite the Seselj case being one of the most important cases at the ICTY since it was created.

Basically, the first news about the Judgment to appear on the ICTY news page was not the outcome of the Judgment, but the OTP press release regretting the acquittal. I found this a little strange and tweeted:

Some would say that I was just being paranoid and that this does not mean anything.

However, a few hours later, the next news item was still not the outcome of the Judgment, nor was it the fact that the Judgment was now available online. No, it was a link the summary of the dissenting opinion of Judge Lattanzi, who would have convicted Seselj for all but one count. It’s still the case on the website now, but here’s the screenshot for posterity:

Capture d'écran 2016-03-31 17.04.11

This “choice” by the ICTY media office makes it even more obvious for me that the ICTY is officially trying to put the acquittal under the rug.

As an additional confirmation, I checked the twitter feed of the ICTY. While, for the Karadzic Judgment, the ICTY did live tweeting, concluding with the following tweets:

for the Seselj Judgment, things were very different:

Capture d'écran 2016-03-31 17.06.12

As this screenshot shows, there is simply the announcement that the Judgment is scheduled, then no indication of the actual outcome, followed by the OTP press release.

Just to be sure one more time that I was not dreaming, I went back to the 15 December 2015 when the Stanisic and Simatovic Appeals Judgment was issued, and the ICTY news feed did indicate back then the outcome of the Judgment:

So, clearly, there is a decision made here to minimise the Judgment that was issued today. In other words, the ICTY seems to be ashamed by a Judgment rendered officially by one of its Chambers. Unsurprisingly, I find this absolutely appalling and it is a shameful conduct. The ICTY, as an institution, should stick by the decisions that it delivers, whatever the outcome. I have blackened dozens of pages and spent liters of saliva over the years, trying to explain to everyone that in a criminal law system that is healthy, we should respect the outcome of trials, even when it is an acquittals.

And then, the ICTY shows a total lack of respect for itself. What’s the point in trying in that case?

6 Quick Thoughts on the Karadzic Judgment

Today, the ICTY issued its long awaited Judgment in the Karadzic case. Given its length, over 2500 pages, this post can obviously not provide any comprehensive analysis of the Judgment. I do however want to share 6 quick initial and general thoughts :

  • As noted, the Judgment is very long. This might seem a little shocking at first, but given the length of the trial, the huge body of evidence adduced from the trial and the crimes covered, its length can be understandable. Which does not mean that this is not problematic. There has to be something wrong with a system, from the OTP charging strategy, to the case management by the Judges, for such a Judgment to be rendered. Nobody is going to read 2500 pages and questions can certainly be asked about the pedagogic effect of international judgments.
  • Which brings me to my second point: the fundamental question of the usefulness of international judgments generally. Indeed, following the build-up to the delivery of the Judgment in the general media, it was obvious that Karadzic was already considered to be guilty. All that everybody expected was a formal confirmation of their view that this was indeed the case and nobody would have accepted an acquittal (as shown by initial reactions to the acquittal of Karadzic on one count of genocide, or the “inadequate” 40 year prison sentence). This means that in fact, there is an expectation of conviction and the idea that an acquittal is not an option. This shows in fact very little respect for the criminal law process, based on the presumption of innocence.
  • Rather unsurprisingly, the Chamber acquitted Karadzic for the Count of Genocide in relation to the Municipalities. This is unsurprising because the Chamber had already dismissed this Count under Rule 98(bis), before being overturned by the Appeals Chamber. There is now consistent case-law that there was no genocidal intent in the rest of Bosnia and I remain surprised at the criticism leveled at the ICTY on this point: clearly, ICTY Judges, who in the past have stretched the definitions of crimes, modes of liability and acceptable evidence beyond recognition to cast as wide a net as possible in the “fight against impunity”, can hardly be considered as genocide apologists and if they have not found evidence of genocidal intent in so many cases, it must mean something.
  • I look forward to the Appeals process. Given the fact that Appeals Chamber has already decided that there is sufficient evidence of genocidal intent for the Municipalities Count when overturning the 98bis decision, it is easy to guess that the OTP will appeal that acquittal. Also, there seem to have been countless disclosure violations by the Prosecution (108 (!)motions were filed by Karadzic to that effect, a lot of them successful). Peter Robinson, Karadzic’s legal advisor, has been documenting them on his twitter feed. One tweet, posted on the eve of the Judgment, if true, certainly raises question about the fairness of the process:
  • As an aside to the delivery of the Judgment, the ICTY sealed a solid victory in its fight against impunity, by getting the Dutch authorities to arrest Florence Hartmann (images of her arrest here), a French journalist who was fined 7000 euro for publishing information in a book on the content of confidential decisions of the ICTY (images of her arrest here). The fine was later commuted to a 7-day prison sentence. This is rather ridiculous, and I’m sure that the ICTY has better things to do that this… or maybe not.
  • And a final fun fact: a search for “Mladic” in the Judgment comes up with 1883 hits… Anybody care to take bets on the outcome of that trial?