THE HAGUE | 22.02.2004.
Next Week at the Tribunal

NEW UNCERTAINTIES IN THE MILOSEVIC CASE

Six trials continue, an appeals judgment will be handed down and three ex-KLA members re- enter their pleas. Will a judge's illness jeopardize the continuation of the Milosevic trial?

Because of Milosevic's frequent bouts of illness, which have slowed the pace of the trial to take into account his mental and physical state, the prosecution case went on for more than nine months longer than anticipated. According to the original schedule, it was set to end on 16 May 2003. If Milosevic appears in the courtroom this week, the prosecution will finally conclude its case on Wednesday, 25 February. This, however, will not remove all the uncertainties that have plagued this trial.

Perhaps even more than the accused's high blood pressure and occasional bouts of flu, the illness of presiding Judge Richard May could bring the proceedings into question. Health problems of all the participants in the proceedings before the Tribunal are treated as a "private matter," and no public announcements are made. There was consequently no official explanation for the absence of Judge May, except hints that he was not feeling well and was undergoing treatment. Under Tribunal Rules, a Trial Chamber may hear evidence with only two judges present for just five days. This seems to be the reason why in early February, the remaining seven "short" working days (9 to 13:45) given to prosecutors for the conclusion of their case have been turned into five "full" working days (9 to 16:45).

After the prosecution rests its case, there will be a three-month break for the accused to prepare for his case. Today's New York Times, however, asks for the first time what would happen if Judge May fails to get better before the continuation of the trial. According to Tribunal rules, the accused has to consent to the naming of a new judge. Milosevic's legal advisor, Zdenko Tomanovic hinted at what Milosevic's attitude might be. According to the New York Times, he said, "If a judge is ill, we can wait till his health is better. But if a judge has to leave, then the accused has the right to ask for the proceedings to start all over again."

At one point, the accused Goran Jelisic refused to consent to the replacement of Judge Fouad Riad and the trial was adjourned for several months until the Egyptian judge recovered from heart surgery.

In addition to the last days of the prosecution case in the Milosevic trial, another five trials are set to continue next week in The Hague. In the next few days, the prosecution will conclude its case in the trial of Vidoje Blagojevic and Dragan Jokic, former VRS officers charged with participation in the Srebrenica massacre. Both sides are expected to rest their cases in the Brdjanin trial. He is charged with genocide in Bosnian Krajina. And the prosecution will continue presenting evidence at three trials: Momcilo Krajisnik, charged with genocide in BiH in 1991 and 1992; Enver Hadzihasanovic and Amir Kubura, charged with crimes committed by the BH Army in Central Bosnia; and Pavle Strugar, charged with the shelling of Dubrovnik.

On Wednesday, 25 February, the Appeals Chamber will deliver its judgment in the case of Mitar Vasiljevic, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his crimes in Visegrad.

Finally, three former KLA members - Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu and Haradin Bala - will appear before the court on Friday. They are charged with crimes against Serbian and Albanian civilians in the Lapusnik camp in 1998. They will be invited to enter a plea on the second amended indictment, which charges them with participation in a "joint criminal enterprise." Isak Musliu is now charged not only for his individual responsibility, but also for so-called "command responsibility" - for crimes committed by his subordinates that he failed to prevent or punish.