Tuesday, July 28, 2009
International criminal tribunals have it hard enough, but disclosing the identity of protected witnesses cannot help. Here is a a press release from the United Nations describing a 15-month jail term given to a defendant who published a book containing the names of three witnesses.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) gave the leader of the Serbian Radical Party a 15-month jail term after finding him guilty of contempt of court for publishing the names of three protected witnesses in his war crimes trial. Vojislav Šešelj, who is facing nine charges relating to his alleged role in an ethnic cleansing campaign in the Vojvodina region of Serbia between 1991 and 1993, authored a book containing detailed information – including the names and court-given pseudonyms – about the three witnesses. Mr. Šešelj said he did not reveal the witnesses’ names with the intention of intimidating them, but rather to “unmask a plot in public” regarding some events in the indictment for his war crimes trial. But the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said it was gravely concerned with “the deliberate way in which the protective measure decisions” concerning the witnesses had been defied by Mr. Šešelj.
“The Chamber considers this a serious interference with the administration of justice, particularly given the potential adverse impact of such conduct upon witnesses’ confidence in the Tribunal’s ability to guarantee the effectiveness of protective measures,” according to a summary of the judgment read out by Judge O-Gon Kwon, the ICTY’s Vice-President. “Furthermore, the Chamber recognizes the need to discourage this type of behaviour, and to take such steps as it can to ensure that there is no repetition of such conduct on the part of the Accused or any other person.”
The ICTY, which sits in The Hague, also ordered Mr. Šešelj to withdraw the book from his website and to report back to the Tribunal on this action by 7 August.
The separate war crimes trial of Mr. Šešelj, which began in late 2006, was adjourned in February this year. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include murder, torture and persecution.