At the hearing to discuss the Prosecutor's application to refer the trial for crimes in Foca to the judiciary of Bosnia and Herzegovina, defense counsel of the accused expressed concern about possible difficulties in preparing the defense. Serbia and Montenegro seeks a referral to its own courts

Sudnica Tribunala u Den HaaguSudnica Tribunala u Den Haagu

Bosnia and Herzegovina supports the motion put forward by the Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal to refer the cases concerning the crimes committed in Foca to a Sarajevo court, while the three accused that the motion refers to believe it would jeopardize their defense.

The Prosecutor’s Office proposes that the trial of the former deputy warden of the Foca KP Dom (Penitentiary and correctional facility) Savo Todovic and of Mitar Rasevic, former commander of the guards there, be referred to the state court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The case against Gojko Jankovic, accused of the rape of Bosniak women, has also been proposed for a referral.

At today’s hearing on the issue, Todovic’s defense team pointed out that the witnesses who might be prepared to testify in his defense before the Hague Tribunal were not willing to appear in Sarajevo. “Todovic does not wish to bring anyone into a situation where they might be arrested and prefers not to present his defense at all if the trial is to be held in Sarajevo”, defense counsel Aleksandar Lazarevic said.

Mitar “Rasevic, personally, is not opposed to a trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina, provided that it is fair and that is begins soon”, said his defense counsel Vladimir Domazet, who also feared that some defense witnesses would refuse to testify before a court in Sarajevo.

The judges pointed to the fact that the witnesses need not always testify in Sarajevo, but that “their testimony, under oath, may be taken in their own country”.

Counsel Lazarevic mentioned a specific problem concerning accused Gojko Jankovic: “We fear that a strict application of the witness protection mechanism (in Sarajevo) would result in our not knowing the witnesses’ names, and not being able to cross examine them.”

Representative of the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina Jusuf Halilagic, speaking via video-link from Sarajevo, responded that the county was “able to take over the cases” referred to it by the Tribunal and to ensure that the accused can present their defense, adding that Bosnia and Herzegovina had already put forward legal and practical arguments in writing to support its position.

However, representatives of Serbia and Montenegro also appeared at today’s hearing asking that the accused be tried in its territory. Prosecutors opposed their participation in the hearing but the Referral Chamber allowed it as one of the accused, Savo Todovic, has held dual citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro since a fortnight ago. This fact justifies the argument presented by Serbia and Montenegro that it is a qualified candidate to try the case. Its representatives and the defense counsel agreed that Jankovic may be considered a citizen of Serbia and Montenegro too since he had permanent residence in Montenegro in 1990, and added that Rasevic had also applied for dual citizenship.