Registry and Chambers:
Nerma Jelačić, Spokesperson for Registry and Chambers, made the following statement:
The Trial Chamber today ordered an adjournment of proceedings in the case of Vojislav Šešelj (Decision available in French). In its decision the Chamber ruled by majority (with Judge Antonetti dissenting) to suspend hearing of testimonies of remaining prosecution witnesses or until Trial Chamber orders otherwise.
In a separate order issued earlier this week, the President of the Tribunal granted Vladimir Šantić’s request for commutation of his sentence. Šantić, a former local commander of the military police and of the “Jokers”, a unit of the HVO, and a co-accused in the Kupreškić and others case, was convicted by the Appeals Chambers on 23 October 2001 of persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, murder and inhumane acts, for his involvement in a military attack on civilians in the village of Ahmići during which over 100 civilians were killed and 169 Muslim homes were destroyed. He was transferred to Spain on 12 April 2002 to serve his sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment.
In reaching his decision, President Robinson noted that Šantić fulfilled the conditions under Spanish law that, under exceptional circumstances, a convicted person can be released after serving two-thirds of his sentence. In addition, prisoners must have passed through three grades of prisoner status and display behaviour and a high likelihood of successful reintegration in society to become eligible for parole.
Although Šantić has not yet served two-thirds of his original sentence, President Robinson notes that he has passed through the required three grades of prisoner status. Through his work and good behaviour, he has also qualified for 302 days which were deducted from his original sentence. Šantić thus effectively completed two-thirds of his sentence on 4 December 2008.
Meantime, there have been several provisional release decisions:
The Appeals Chamber ordered the provisional release of Bajrush Morina from the Tribunal’s Detention Unit. Morina’s release was ordered as he completed the three-month sentence imposed for contempt of court in the Haradinaj and others case. Morina’s release is provisional pending the Appeals judgement and is subject to a number of terms outlined in the decision.
In the Milutinović and others case, the Trial Chamber rendered two provisional release decisions. It granted temporary provisional release for Vladimir Lazarević from 11 until 23 February based on serious and sufficiently compelling humanitarian considerations outlined in his motion. Lazarević’s provisional release is subject to strict terms including 24-hour surveillance. The Trial Chamber denied provisional release motion for Nikola Šainović.
On to this week’s court schedule:
The Trial Chamber in the case against Milan and Sredoje Lukić has ordered that the trial be suspended for a period of two weeks. The trial is scheduled to recommence on Wednesday, 25 February. The defence was expected to end its case on 10 March but will be adjusted according to the two week suspension.
The trial for Momcilo Perišić has adjourned for the week and will resume on Monday 16 February at 14:15 in Courtroom II.
The trials for Gotovina and others, Prlić and others, Vlastimir Ðorđevic and Popović and others will continue for the remainder of this week and next as scheduled.
Office of the Prosecutor:
Olga Kavran, Spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor, made no statement.
Asked about the reasoning behind the Prosecutor’s request for the adjournment of proceedings in the Šešelj case, Olga Kavran responded that, as stated in court on 15 January 2009, in the Prosecution’s view the integrity of the proceedings is being compromised.
A journalist asked whether a request will be filed for a mistrial in the Šešelj case. Olga Kavran responded that she cannot speculate on the matter.
Asked whether the adjournment of Šešelj’s case will have any impact on the contempt proceedings against him, Nerma Jelačić answered that these are two separate cases. Jelačić added that the next step in the contempt proceedings is for the Acting Registrar to name an Amicus Prosecutor which is expected to be done soon.
Asked how many Prosecution’s witnesses have been called so far to testify against Šešelj, Olga Kavran and Nerma Jelačić responded that they will have to check the exact figure and get back to the journalist. /added after the briefing: 71 witnesses in total testified so far.