News 24 Jun 13

Hague Judge’s Leaked Letter ‘Reveals Court’s Bias’

A lawyer for a Bosniak war crimes convict called for the verdict to be quashed after a letter criticising the international court by Hague Tribunal judge Frederik Harhoff was made public.

Justice Report

The lawyer for former Bosnian Army commander Rasim Delic, who was convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia but died before the end of his sentence, has filed a motion for the verdict to be quashed because of alleged bias revealed by the critical letter written by Hague judge Frederik Harhoff, which was leaked to the international media earlier this month.

“Judge Harhoff reveals an unacceptable bias towards the conviction of accused people before the ICTY, a bias which could have been a decisive factor in reaching the final decision to convict Rasim Delic,” lawyer Vasvija Vidovic said in a motion filed with the Tribunal’s president, Theodor Meron.

Harhoff was a member of the three-member first-instance trial chamber which convicted Delic with two votes for, one against.  

Under the first-instance verdict handed down by the Hague Tribunal in September 2008, Delic was sentenced to three years in prison in September 2008 but died a year and half months later while on temporary release. The appeals chamber confirmed the first-instance verdict.

In his letter, emailed to friends but later leaked to the media, Harhoff suggested that recent high-profile acquittals could have been the result of political pressure.

He said that he had heard that Tribunal president Meron, a US citizen, allegedly put pressure on other judges to approve the acquittals in recent months of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, Yugoslav general Momcilo Perisic and Serbian security officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic.

Harhoff also accused the Tribunal of changing its policy on convictions.

He alleged that the changes could have come as a result of “pressure from ‘the military establishments’ in certain dominant countries”, such as the US and Israel, which do not want to see precedents established that could be used to convict their citizens in the future.

According to the motion filed by Delic’s defence, this raised serious questions about other verdicts handed down by the UN-backed court.

“It is patent from the letter that judge Harhoff regards acquittals as inherently suspect and driven by US-Israeli machinations, apparently conducted through the appeals chamber presiding judge, judge Meron, a judge of unimpeachable international reputation and renown,” the motion said.

Delic, the commander of the Bosnian Army’s main headquarters, was convicted of “having failed to undertake the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or sanction the crimes” committed by Muslim volunteer fighters against Serb prisoners in the village of Livade and the Kamenica detention camp in the summer of 1995.

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