THE HAGUE | 03.11.2015.

PROSECUTOR SEEKS PERMISSION TO APPEAL AGAINST STAY OF PROCEEDINGS IN HADZIC CASE

The Trial Chamber's decision to grant a three-month stay of proceedings in Hadzic case has only formalized the status quo, the prosecution notes in its motion seeking permission to appeal against the decision. Furthermore, the Trial Chamber's decision impacts "the fair and expeditious conduct of the proceedings and the outcome of the trial", the prosecution noted

The prosecution has sought permission to appeal against the Trial Chamber's decision to grant a three-month stay of proceedings in the case of Goran Hadzic. According to the prosecution, the trial of the former prime minister of the Serb Autonomous Region of Baranja and Western Srem can proceed "in Hadzic’s partial or complete absence". Hadzic has been granted provisional release for humanitarian reasons after he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor.

In light of Hadzic's health and the current stage of the trial, the prosecution believes that another three-month suspension will 'impact the fairness and expeditiousness of the trial', and it raises the issue of whether the trial will end at all.

The prosecution argues that the Trial Chamber has erred when it decided to grant the stay. The Trial Chamber has correctly concluded that Hadzic is 'fit' to attend the trial that is at a “very advanced stage of proceedings”. According to the prosecution, the trial could be completed in about six or seven weeks. The defense is already well-aware of the remaining evidence to be adduced at trial and if there are any 'surprises', the defense can easily consult with the accused, the prosecution notes.

Despite all that, and in disregard of the 'public interest in adjudicating this case', the Trial Chamber has failed to provide a reasoned decision on the prosecution's suggestion to continue the trial "in the Accused’s partial or complete absence". The right of the accused to be “tried in his presence” is not absolute, the prosecution recalls. Moreover, that right should be considered in the light of the Trial Chamber's primary duty to 'ensure an expeditious trial, uphold the interests of justice and maintain the integrity of proceedings'.

The prosecution also notes that the Trial Chamber has erred when it rejected the possibility to continue the trial via video link and when it failed to consider other options for the continuation of the proceedings. Finally, the prosecution stresses that the Trial Chamber has abused its discretion and erroneously concluded that the decision of the prosecution to 'waive its right to cross-examine witnesses weighs neither in favor of nor against continuing proceedings'. The decision to waive the right to cross-examine witnesses was 'unconditional' and it significantly reduces the time needed to complete the trial, the prosecution recalls.

According to the prosecution, the latest decision only extends and formalizes the state of limbo in which this case has existed since the Accused fell ill over one year ago. The prosecution also notes that every delay in Hadzic's case, given his condition, decreases the possibility of a judgment. The Appeals Chamber's decision will either move the stalled proceedings towards completion or, despite the Accused’s fitness to stand trial, signal that the case is suspended until he succumbs to his illness barring an unforeseen recovery'.

For all those reasons the prosecution calls on the Appeals Chamber to "immediately review" Trial Chamber decision and order the trial to continue.