Tribunal Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Page 1

1 Monday, 17 June 2002

2 [Initial Appearance]

3 [Open session]

4 [The accused entered court]

5 --- Upon commencing at 2.17 p.m.

6 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me

7 first make sure that everybody can hear me. Mr. Mrdja, can you hear me in

8 a language you understand?

9 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Yes.

10 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. Madam Registrar, will you please

11 call the case.

12 THE REGISTRAR: Good afternoon. This is Case Number IT-02-59-I,

13 the Prosecutor versus Darko Mrjda.

14 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. And may we have the appearances.

15 First of all, Mr. Koumjian for the Office of the Prosecutor.

16 MR. KOUMJIAN: Thank you, Your Honour. Nicholas Koumjian,

17 assisted by Gina Butler for the Office of the Prosecutor.

18 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. And for the Defence, please.

19 MR. MORAN: Your Honour, Tom Moran for the Defence for the

20 purposes of this hearing only.

21 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. Mr. Moran, did you receive the

22 necessary documents in preparation of this initial appearance?

23 MR. MORAN: Yes, Your Honour.

24 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Were you able to discuss the issue with your

25 client?

Page 2

1 MR. MORAN: Yes, Your Honour.


3 At this point, let me turn to Mr. Mrdja who is appearing today on

4 the basis of the indictment of April 16, 2002. He was arrested the 13th

5 of June. The legal basis was an arrest warrant dated 26 April, 2002.

6 Mr. Mrdja was brought to The Hague and is, since Friday, in the United

7 Nations Detention Unit in Scheveningen.

8 Mr. Mrdja, would you please stand up. I should like to ask you

9 first of all several questions. These first questions are only for the

10 purposes of the identification, having nothing to do with the case as

11 such. Would you please state your full name, including all first names

12 and last names for the record.

13 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, my name is Mrdja,

14 Darko.

15 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: This is the only first name. And what about --

16 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] They call me Dado. It's easier.

17 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. And your father's and mother's name,

18 please.

19 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, my father's name is

20 Milenko Mrdja, my mother's name is Desa Mrdja.

21 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: What is the date and place of your birth?

22 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, the 28th of June, 1967.

23 I was born in Zagreb.

24 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: What was your profession or occupation before

25 you came here?

Page 3

1 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] I finished metal school, training

2 for a metal worker.

3 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: It's easier for you to sit down. Please sit

4 down and give your answers whilst you're sitting.

5 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour.

6 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: And your place of last residence, please.

7 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Prijedor. Do you want my exact

8 address?

9 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Yes, please.

10 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Vojvode Stepo Stepanovic Street, the

11 number is 84, Prijedor.

12 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Finally, are you married and do you have

13 children?

14 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I am married and have

15 two children. I have a son of seven months and a daughter of four years.

16 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you, Mr. Mrdja.

17 The proceedings today are your initial appearance before this

18 Tribunal. It seems to be a formality only, but it's a very important

19 point in time, setting, to a certain extent, the course for the entire

20 procedure. The underlying reasons for this procedure is the following:

21 The Prosecution has asked the Trial Chamber to confirm an indictment

22 against you on a prima facie basis. At the same time, there was a request

23 for an arrest warrant, forming the basis for your deprivation of liberty.

24 Normally, the other party, in this case, you Mr. Mrdja, would have a right

25 to be informed and heard before a decision is taken. It is in the nature

Page 4

1 of the aforementioned decisions that it was not possible to hear you

2 beforehand. This will be cured now. You will have the possibility to

3 contest both the indictment and the deprivation of liberty. For a better

4 understanding of what's going on, let me give you the following

5 informations, first of all, before reading the indictment.

6 Mr. Mrdja, it is your right to remain silent. No inference to

7 your disadvantage can be drawn if you remain totally silent. The only

8 inference that can be drawn can be found in Rule 62 of our Rules of

9 Procedure and Evidence where you can read that if the accused fails to

10 enter a plea in the initial appearance, the judge shall enter a plea of

11 not guilty on the accused's behalf. But I have to warn you at the same

12 time that everything you may say in the courtroom may be used even against

13 you, in evidence. It is only fair to tell you also the other side of the

14 same coin. It is the general rule in all courtrooms on this globe that

15 any kind of cooperation will be or would be for your advantage. In case

16 it will not come to a sentencing stage, it will be in your interest to

17 speed up the proceedings. In case, and I emphasise, only in case it would

18 come to sentencing stage, such kind of cooperation will always be held in

19 your favour. And it's now for you to discuss this issue in depth with

20 your Defence counsel, balancing all these interests.

21 Mr. Mrdja, did you understand this admonition?

22 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I have understood very

23 well.

24 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you.

25 Let's now hear the charges of the indictment of April 16, without

Page 5

1 the attachment, please.

2 THE REGISTRAR: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal

3 Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, pursuant to her authority under

4 Article 18 of the statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the

5 Former Yugoslavia, charges Darko Mrjda with crimes against humanity and

6 violations of the laws or customs of war as set forth below:

7 The accused, Darko Mrjda, nickname Dado, son of Milenko, was born

8 on 28 June, 1968 in Zagreb, Croatia. He grew up in Tukovi, in the

9 municipality of Prijedor in Bosnia and Herzegovina and had worked at the

10 nearby mine in Omarska. In 1992, during the conflict in Bosnia and

11 Herzegovina, he was a member of the special police unit known as an

12 "intervention squad" serving under the Bosnian Serb authorities in

13 Prijedor.

14 General allegations: On 21 August, 1992, an armed conflict was

15 taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The crimes charged in this

16 indictment were part of a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian

17 population, principally Muslim and Croat, of Prijedor municipality. Darko

18 Mrjda is individually criminally responsible, pursuant to article 7(1) of

19 the statute of the Tribunal for the crimes referred to in Articles 3 and 5

20 of the statute of the Tribunal as alleged in this indictment, which he

21 planned, instigated, ordered, committed or in whose planning, preparation

22 or execution he otherwise aided and abetted. Darko Mrjda on 21 August,

23 1992, was required to abide by the laws and customs governing the conduct

24 of armed conflicts including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the

25 additional protocols thereto.

Page 6

1 Statement of the facts: In the spring of 1992, armed conflict

2 broke out in the northwestern Bosnia, including the municipalities of

3 Prijedor and Skender Vakuf. Armed forces aligned with the Serbian

4 Democratic Party, the SDS, who sought to join the territory to the

5 Yugoslavia or to keep it in an independent Serbian state, Republika

6 Srpska, attacked non-Serb civilian populations and battled forces that

7 supported the government in Sarajevo.

8 As part of their efforts to sever territory from Bosnia and

9 Herzegovina, Bosnian Serb forces, under the leadership of the SDS, carried

10 out widespread and systematic attacks on the civilian population of this

11 region. Non-Serb civilians were detained in various facilities including

12 the Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje camps in Prijedor municipality.

13 On 21 of August, 1992, a group of non-Serb prisoners detained in

14 the Trnopolje camp were told that they would be "exchanged" and

15 transported to Travnik, a city then under the control of the forces loyal

16 to the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Buses arrived at the camp

17 that morning, and many prisoners boarded the buses.

18 That same morning, many hundreds, or perhaps more than a thousand,

19 civilian men, women, and children gathered in the village of Tukovi, also

20 in Prijedor municipality. They had also been told that a convoy would be

21 organised that day to Travnik. Darko Mrjda was present in Tukovi when the

22 civilians were loaded on to the convoy and was observed to give orders to

23 other police officers present.

24 The two groups of vehicles from Tukovi and Trnopolje joined into

25 one convoy at the town of Kozarac and proceeded in the direction of

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13 English transcripts.













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1 Travnik. Police or soldiers, including Darko Mrjda, accompanied the

2 convoy throughout the journey.

3 After passing the town of Skender Vakuf, the convoy drove over

4 Vlasic mountain toward the front line. At one point along the mountain

5 road, the convoy stopped in a wooded area. Darko Mrjda was present, along

6 with several other men in uniforms. He ordered and participated in the

7 separation of a group of military-aged non-Serb men. The remainder of the

8 convoy, consisting largely of women, children, and elderly, continued on

9 to Travnik.

10 Darko Mrjda, and a group of police from his intervention squad,

11 ordered these non-Serb men, who had been separated, to enter two buses.

12 There were far more men than seats, and the prisoners were packed into all

13 available space on the buses. After driving a short distance, the buses

14 stopped at a location called Korecanske Stijene where there is a sheer

15 rock face on one side of the road and a steep cliff on the other.

16 Prisoners were ordered to leave the bus with their heads down and

17 to kneel at the edge of the cliff. Darko Mrjda said: "Here is where we

18 do the exchange, the living for the living, and the dead..."

19 The police began firing their guns at the men. Several jumped or

20 were pushed over the cliff before they were shot and survived the fall.

21 Prisoners from the other bus were then brought off the bus in smaller

22 groups and shot at the edge of the cliff. Witnesses estimate more than

23 200 men were killed by the shots or the fall, although the exact number

24 that died is unknown. Annex A lists 228 names that were reported to be

25 those of men last seen on this convoy. 12 men are known to have survived

Page 9

1 the shooting and the fall.

2 Darko Mrjda was in command of the police unit, planned, organised,

3 aided, and abetted, and ordered the massacre and he himself shot at least

4 one prisoner.

5 Charges: On 21 August, 1992, on a road over Vlasic mountain in

6 the municipality of Skender Vakuf, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Darko Mrjda

7 acting in concert with others who shared his intent planned, instigated,

8 ordered, committed, or otherwise aided and abetted the planning,

9 preparation, or execution of the killing of over 200 men on a convoy

10 originating from Trnopolje and Tukovi and heading for Travnik. 12 men,

11 among those that the accused and his accomplices intended to kill, fell or

12 jumped down a cliff and survived the massacre.

13 By the above-described conduct, Darko Mrjda committed: Count 1:

14 Extermination, a crime against humanity, punishable under Article 5 (b)

15 and 7(1) of the statute of the Tribunal, and count 2: Murder, a

16 violations of the laws or customs of war as recognized by Article 31A of

17 the Geneva Convention of 1949, punishable under Articles 3 and 7(1) of the

18 statute of the Tribunal. Count 3: Inhuman acts, attempted murder, a

19 crime against humanity, punishable under Article 5, 1 and 7(1) of the

20 statute of the Tribunal. Dated this 16th day of April, 2002.

21 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: As mentioned in the indictment itself, attached

22 to the indictment we find an annex A, not to be read out here, including

23 the names of 228 persons missing from 21 August, 1992 convoy over Vlasic

24 Mountain.

25 Mr. Mrdja, did you understand this indictment?

Page 10

1 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] I have understood it, Your Honour,

2 yes.

3 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: I have to inform you that under Rule 68 -- 62 of

4 our Rules of Procedure and Evidence, within 30 days of this initial, you

5 will be called upon to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on each count;

6 but that should you so request, you may immediately enter a plea of guilty

7 or not guilty on one or more counts.

8 Did you have the opportunity to discuss the charges of the

9 indictment with your Defence counsel?

10 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Yes, I discussed it in the course of

11 the day today, Your Honour.

12 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Mr. Mrdja, are you ready to enter a plea to the

13 charges today? Are you able to tell us whether you plead guilty or not

14 guilty to each of the counts, or would you prefer to do so within 30 days?

15 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I would prefer to do so

16 straight away.

17 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Then I have to ask you, what is your plea with

18 respect to Count 1, extermination, a crime against humanity, punishable

19 under Article 5(b) and 7(1) of the Statute of the Tribunal?

20 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, not guilty.

21 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Count 2: Murder, a violation of the laws or

22 customs of war, as recognised by Article 3(1)(a) of the Geneva Convention

23 of 1949, punishable under Articles 3 and 7(1) of the Statute of the

24 Tribunal?

25 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, not guilty.

Page 11

1 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: And finally, Count 3: Inhumane acts, attempted

2 murder, a crime against humanity, punishable under Articles 5(i) and 7(1)

3 of the Statute of the Tribunal?

4 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Not guilty, Your Honour.

5 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Do you want to make any additional comments on

6 the indictment?

7 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] No, Your Honour.

8 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: You may sit down, please.

9 Madam Registrar, we have noted that Mr. Mrdja has entered a plea

10 of not guilty to all the counts of the indictment.

11 We may now turn to the question of deprivation of liberty. Today

12 I have to decide whether or not there will be ongoing deprivation of your

13 liberty. Of course, it's your right to contest the question of your

14 arrest. Do you want to raise any objections today, or as it is custom in

15 this Tribunal, first to file a motion on behalf of this issue?

16 MR. MORAN: Your Honour, can we reserve and file a motion for

17 provisional release at a later date.

18 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. Therefore, then I have today to

19 order that the detention has to continue until further order. And we

20 expect your contributions.

21 Is it necessary that anybody is informed on your deprivation of

22 liberty, for example, your spouse or relative, especially to inform where

23 you can be reached, the coordinate here in Scheveningen?

24 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, thank you. I have

25 already contacted my family.

Page 12

1 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: In this context, the second question is: Do you

2 want the Tribunal to inform your consulate or embassy on your deprivation

3 of liberty?

4 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, if possible, I should

5 like them to be informed, yes.

6 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: So, please, tell me, what is the consulate you

7 want to be -- that should be informed?

8 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] The consulate of Bosnia and

9 Herzegovina.

10 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: The State of Bosnia and Herzegovina; I

11 understand correctly. Thank you.

12 You may be seated again. First of all --

13 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour.

14 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: May I first of all, then, turn to the

15 Prosecution. Any comments from the side of the Office of the Prosecutor?

16 MR. KOUMJIAN: Your Honour, my only remaining concern today is the

17 appointment of Defence counsel, who it is that I should deliver the

18 supporting materials to within 30 days. And I've also planned to file a

19 motion - we can file it today - just a general protective measures motion,

20 a standard motion in all cases, that nothing be disclosed outside of the

21 accused and Defence counsel that could possibly endanger any witness or

22 victim.

23 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you.

24 MR. MORAN: Your Honour, my client has been in contact with a

25 lawyer I believe in Banja Luka. I have his telephone number. He will

Page 13

1 probably at least contacted to be the permanent counsel. I will also

2 confer with the OLAD staff immediately after this hearing about the matter

3 of permanent counsel.

4 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: But my understanding is that for the period of

5 transition, you will be always available as the responsible person?

6 MR. MORAN: Your Honour, as I understand it, the assignment was

7 for a few days, a limited number of days. And I would prefer not to

8 accept service of the supporting materials if someone will be assigned in

9 the next few days. I'd rather not have them.

10 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Right. I understand. But just in case it's

11 necessary to regulate the one or other question, you will be available

12 until new Defence counsel is arriving.

13 MR. MORAN: Yes, Your Honour.

14 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you for this.

15 MR. KOUMJIAN: Your Honour, perhaps just for the record, we

16 should -- Your Honour may consider inquiring of the accused if he has

17 retained a lawyer or has the funds to do so.

18 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: I will turn immediately to this last question.

19 Mr. Mrdja, we already mentioned the Detention Unit once again.

20 The question is whether or not you want -- do you want to raise anything

21 regarding the conditions of your detention and the conditions of your

22 health?

23 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I have no criticisms to

24 make with respect to detention or anything else that I wish to say.

25 Everything is proper and correct. And I am exceptionally happy with the

Page 14

1 conditions of detention. I have nothing to say.

2 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. And the final question, as you may

3 have understood from the Office of the Prosecutor: Do you have already

4 Defence counsel which will represent your interests that you can tell the

5 Tribunal?

6 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I have contacted

7 Mr. Krstan Simic. However, he has some political reasons for which he was

8 not able to call me back. But in a space of a day or two, I shall tell

9 the lawyer who my Defence counsel will be.

10 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you. It's my understanding that both the

11 OTP and the Trial Chamber II will be informed immediately on the ongoing

12 developments.

13 Any other further statements?

14 MR. KOUMJIAN: Your Honour, just to save any time being wasted, I

15 don't know if the accused is indicating he has funds to actually hire

16 counsel or if he's going to request an appointment. I think OLAD may be

17 interested in knowing that so they can start working on an appointment if

18 that's necessary.

19 MR. MORAN: Your Honour, I've conferred with him. And for

20 purposes of appointment of counsel, he is indigent, and he will claim

21 indigence.

22 JUDGE SCHOMBURG: Thank you for this clarification. I think the

23 proceedings can go on on this basis, and the Trial Chamber expects new

24 motions from both sides as soon as possible.

25 I can conclude this hearing. This hearing stands adjourned.

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1 Thank you all.

2 --- Whereupon the Initial Appearance adjourned

3 at 2.44 p.m.