Karadzic prosecutors challenge decision on genocide charge

Author: Rachel Irwin
Uploaded: Monday, 30 July, 2012

Lawyers say judges erred in dropping count of genocide in locations other than Srebrenica, reports IWPR's Tribunal Update

.Prosecutors in The Hague said this week that they planned to appeal against the decision to acquit wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic of one count of genocide relating to seven municipalities other than Srebrenica.   Tribunal judges dismissed the count on 28 June, concluding that ‘there is no evidence, even taken at its highest, which could be capable of supporting a conviction of genocide in the municipalities’. The prosecution had alleged that genocide in the seven named municipalities occurred there between March and December 1992.
Karadzic still faces a count of genocide relating to the 1995 massacre in the eastern town of Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Bosniak boys and men were killed.   His indictment also includes counts of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts, terror, unlawful attacks and the taking of United Nations peacekeepers as hostages. His defence case is slated to begin in October.
In a 3 July court filing, the prosecution argued that judges ‘erred in law and/or fact’ in the decision to drop the other genocide charge.   The prosecutors claimed that the bench had failed to apply the correct standard for assessing evidence at this stage in the proceedings. In accordance with tribunal rules, judges made the decision before the defence case begins. The prosecution said that unless it was allowed to appeal the decision now, it was possible that at the conclusion of the trial, an appeals chamber could determine that the trial chamber had erred, which would result in a ‘costly and time-consuming retrial’.
The accused also asked for leave to appeal against the chamber’s decision, in relation to a count in the indictment that deals with the taking of UN peacekeepers and military observers as hostages between May and June 1995.   The judges decided that there was enough evidence to retain this count, despite Karadzic’s argument that the peacekeepers and military observers were ‘taking an active part in the hostilities and therefore not protected persons’ under article three of the Geneva Conventions. Karadzic has also argued that if the hostages did have protected status, he was unaware of this.   The judges rejected his arguments, concluding that even if the peacekeepers were deemed combatants, once detained, they were ‘hors de combat’ (out of combat) and therefore protected.
In a filing on 5 July, Karadzic questioned the judges’ logic in extending legal protection to detained combatants. ‘[I]t makes no sense that a perpetrator is privileged to shoot and kill a combatant but commits a crime when he threatens him with death or detention,’ he wrote. The issue needed addressing because it has wider legal implications for peacekeeping operations generally, Karadzic wrote. ‘A definitive ruling on the status of UN personnel will provide important guidance in the conduct of present and future peacekeeping operations, such as Syria,’ he wrote.
Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR Senior Reporter in the Hague. This report apeared in IWPR’S ICTY TRIBUNAL UPDATE No. 749, 10 July 2012
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