Chief Prosecutor Brammertz feels ‘it is not appropriate’ for the Office of the Prosecutor to join the debate following Judge Harhoff’s letter about the series of recent acquittals, but he has called the Tribunal to ‘make allowance for valid criticism’. The OTP, however, will use ‘all remaining legal mechanisms’ and press for ‘just outcomes’ of the cases that would ‘properly reflect the culpability of accused persons’

Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the TribunalSerge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the Tribunal

In the opinion of chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, it wouldn’t be ‘appropriate’ for the Office of the Prosecution to join the debate that ensued after the publication of Judge Harhoff’s letter, in which he expressed his ‘deep concern over the strong feeling that the Tribunal has changed its course under the pressure of the military establishment of some influential countries’.

However, without ‘entering the debate’, in the statement made public today Brammertz notes that the ‘Tribunal must make allowance for valid criticism’. As Brammertz emphasizes, he understands the disappointment, especially among the survivors’ communities, following the series of recent acquittals mentioned in Judge Harhoff’s letter. In Brammertz’s view, the judgments were not ‘persuasively explained to the communities they affect’. On behalf of the OTP, Brammertz reiterates its commitment to using ‘all remaining legal mechanisms’ to press for ‘just outcomes that properly reflect the culpability of the accused persons’.

Specifically, Brammertz indicated that by Friday the OTP would file a notice of appeal against the Trial Chamber’s judgment acquitting Serbian secret service chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. The OTP considers that the majority’s judgment contains ‘several serious errors leading to an unjust outcome’. The fact that the appellate brief will be submitted before 1 July 2013 means that it will be considered before the Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber and not before the so-called Residual Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals. From 1 July 2013, the Mechanism will coexist with the Tribunal.

Although Brammertz hasn’t indicated if the OTP intended to ask for a review of the acquittal of the former chief of the VJ General Staff Momcilo Perisic, he has noted that there were ‘cogent reasons to depart from the legal principles’ enunciated in the judgment. The OTP believes that the test for ‘specific direction’ applied in the Perisic case ‘has no foundation in customary international law’, runs counter to the Tribunal’s jurisprudence and ‘undermines respect for international humanitarian law’. The deadline for the motion for review in the Perisic case expires on 28 February 2014, a year after the Appeals Chamber’s judgment.

As for the Croatian generals Gotovina and Markac, the deadline expires on 16 November 2013. The OTP, Brammertz notes in his statement, ‘is considering whether the specialized threshold required for review of the Appeals Chamber is met. If so, we will initiate proceedings within the prescribed one-year time frame’ Brammertz said. The OTP also pledges to ‘provide all possible assistance to national authorities in the former Yugoslavia to prosecute crimes committed during Operation Storm and its aftermath’.

Despite the fact that he believes that it is not appropriate for the OTP to enter the debate following the publication of Judge Harhoff’s letter, Brammertz concluded his today’s statement by urging the Tribunal to use the ‘constructive aspects of the debate as a springboard for strengthening its processes’.