THE HAGUE | 03.12.2015.

PROSECUTION: HADZIC’S TRIAL SHOULD GO ON

The prosecution has called on the Appeals Chamber to urgently reverse the Trial Chamber’s decisions on the three-month suspension of the trial. Instead, the prosecution argues, the Appeals Chamber should order Goran Hadzic’s defense to resume its case. Goran Hadzic is a former Serb political leader in Croatia

In late October 2015, the Trial Chamber decided to suspend the trial of Goran Hadzic for three months, leaving open the possibility to extend the suspension if the health of the accused didn’t improve. The prosecution has appealed against the decision asking the Appeals Chamber to "determine the appeal on an expedited basis" and order the continuation of proceedings. Hadzic’s defense case was interrupted in October 2014 when the former SAO Eastern Slavonia prime minister was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

In its appeal, the prosecution notes that the Trial Chamber found Hadzic fit for trial, which at any rate might be completed in six or seven weeks, that the need for Hadzic to participate in the remainder of the Defense case is de minimis and that it would be in the interests of justice to continue the trial. The Trial Chamber nevertheless decided to adjourn the trial, which means, according to the prosecution, that it 'is highly likely the final judgment will not be rendered in this case’.

In the first of the four grounds of appeal the prosecution notes that the Trial Chamber failed to provide a reasoned decision on the issue of whether the trial may continue even when the Accused does not attend. The right of the accused to attend the trial ‘isn’t absolute’. It could be revoked if the health of the accused endangers the course of trial. Bearing in mind the ‘unique circumstances’ of this case and the likelihood that otherwise the judgment could never be rendered, there are compelling reasons why the trial should proceed in Hadzic’s absence, the prosecution has stressed.

According to the prosecution, the Trial Chamber erred when it concluded that video link was not an appropriate solution that would allow the accused to participate in the trial. Also, the Trial Chamber failed to investigate all the available options for the trial to continue. Finally, the Trial Chamber erroneously concluded that the prosecution's decision not to cross-examine the remaining witnesses was irrelevant.

The prosecution recalls that Hadzic was a high-ranking official in the Croatian Serb leadership and was charged with some of the gravest crimes. The Appeals Chamber should take into consideration the facts that the trial was in advanced stage and that it would have been completed a long time ago had Hadzic not been a fugitive from justice for seven years.

Goran Hadzic’s trial for crimes against humanity in Eastern Slavonia was suspended when the defense’s case was halfway done. The defense intended to call 44 witnesses: only 11 were to testify live. The defense planned to tender into evidence the previous testimonies or statements to the defense for the remaining 33 witnesses.

According to the prosecution, the Trial Chamber has failed to manage the trial successfully and expeditiously as evidenced by the time the judges took to render their decision on the prosecution’s motion to continue the trial. The Appeals Chamber should therefore correct that error, order the Trial Chamber to immediately proceed with the remainder of the Defense case, and impose any measures it deems necessary to ensure Hadzic’s fair trial rights are adequately safeguarded.