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Home International Tribunals Archive for category "International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia" (Page 2)

Why the Gotovina Appeals Judgment Matters

Published on December 21, 2012        Author: 

Jens David Ohlin is Associate Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. He is the co-editor of Targeted Killings: Law and Morality in an Asymmetrical World (OUP 2012).  Cross-posted at LieberCode.

When the ICTY Appeals Chamber issued its ruling exonerating Gen. Gotovina, and ordering him released, the decision sent shock waves throughout the region.  In Serbia, the decision was met with consternation, anger and resentment.  In Croatia, the decision was met with jubilation and relief, and Gotovina was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to the country.

As Marko Milanovic has ably articulated, this dualistic popular sentiment is cause for concern among those who care about the tribunal’s long-term legitimacy and success.  The decision fueled resentment among Serbs who view the tribunal as victors’ justice.  And more concerning, according to Marko, it reinforces a Croatian narrative that the Croats were pure victims of Serbian aggression who fought back with only legitimate and lawful methods of warfare. For Marko, this constructed narrative whitewashes a much more complicated reality on the ground.

From a legal perspective, the Appeals decision is also a worrisome development.  The two most important principles of the Law of Armed Conflict are the principles of distinction and proportionality.  The principle of distinction outlaws the direct targeting of civilians, while the principle of proportionality outlaws the launching of attacks against legitimate military targets that will cause civilian deaths that are disproportionate to the military value of the legitimate target.  These are simple principles, but they are difficult for courts to apply in practice.  Although one might have predicted otherwise, there have been virtually no guilty verdicts for launching disproportionate attacks at the ICTY.  The Gotovina Trial Chamber Judgment was one of the few.  And now that verdict has been overturned.

I am not saying that the Appeals Chamber was wrong in making this decision, but I am saying that the jurisprudence as a whole has taken a wrong turn when proportionality is almost entirely absent from the ICTY’s case law.

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The Gotovina Omnishambles

Published on November 18, 2012        Author: 

Friday’s judgment in Gotovina and Markac by the ICTY Appeals Chamber (summary; judgment), in which it by 3 votes to 2 reversed a unanimous Trial Chamber and acquitted the defendants, is a disaster at almost every level. I say this not as an aggrieved Serb lamenting the selectiveness of international justice and its failure to punish crimes against his own people – I have long since developed antibodies to all forms of nationalism, including the very virulent type thriving on self-victimization, and I have no personal axe to grind here. I say this rather as an international (human rights) lawyer who has always thought of the ICTY as an indispensable, if imperfect, instrument of justice for the atrocities of the Yugoslav conflicts. That said, how and why then is the Gotovina appeals judgment so bad? To my mind, the problem is not with the acquittal as such – even though as far as public opinion in the former Yugoslavia is concerned the bottom line is all that mattered. Rather, the problem is with the process, the reasoning, the appearances, and the broader repercussions that all these will have.

First, with regard to process: as the dissents by Judges Agius and Pocar correctly point out, the majority make a complete mess of the appellate standards for review. Readers will recall that in the common law-inspired procedure of the ICTY the main task of the Appeals Chamber is to correct errors of law made by the Trial Chamber. The Trial Chamber is owed deference with regards to its findings of fact, which are not to be disturbed lightly on appeal, but only if no reasonable trier of fact could have made the relevant finding on the strength of the record. In short, unlike in most continental systems, the appellate process should not amount a retrial, a de novo examination of the entire case. This ensures both procedural economy and the integrity of the exhaustive fact-finding process in the trial court.

While the majority endorses these standards as they are set out in the ICTY’s long-established jurisprudence, it does not actually follow them – to the extent that its approach to standards of review is actually even discernible, as I will now explain. The whole case ultimately turned around the Trial Chamber’s unfortunate finding that in assessing the shelling by the Croatian artillery of the four Serb towns in the separatist Serb entity in Croatia, chief of them Knin, any shell that fell further than 200 meters from a legitimate military target in the towns should be presumptively considered as evidence of an unlawful indiscriminate attack. The Appeals Chamber was actually unanimous that this rigid standard was not supported by the evidence in the trial record and was not given adequate reasons for by the Trial Chamber.

So far so good. But what the majority then does with this finding turns appellate review on its head. The majority does not explain whether the Trial Chamber’s error with regard to the 200 meter standard itself was an error of law or an error of fact. If it was the former, the majority would have had to articulate a new, proper legal standard for testing the facts established in the record, upon whose application we could know whether the shelling of Knin and the other towns was indiscriminate or not. If it was the latter, the majority would have had to pay due deference to the totality of the factual findings made by the Trial Chamber and should only have disturbed them if no reasonable trier of fact could have found that the shelling was indiscriminate on the basis of all of the evidence in the record.

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Karadzic Trial Chamber Finds No Genocide in Bosnia but for Srebrenica

Published on June 28, 2012        Author: 

Today the ICTY Trial Chamber trying Radovan Karadzic, the former president of the Bosnian Serbs, delivered an oral order on the defendant’s ‘no case to answer’ motion for acquittal under Rule 98 bis of the ICTY RPE, under which the Trial Chamber shall, by oral decision, and after hearing the oral submissions of the parties, enter a judgement of acquittal on any count if there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction. The standard for doing so is whether a reasonable trier of fact could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the accused’s criminal responsibility on a particular count of the indictment.

A press release on the order is available here. A formal written decision will follow. In a nutshell – and this is hardly news – the Chamber upheld 10 counts of the indictment, finding that a reasonable trier of fact could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Karadzic was criminally responsible through a JCE for the crimes alleged, including the Srebrenica genocide. What is news, however, is that the Chamber granted Karadzic’s motion with respect to the count charging him with genocide outside Srebrenica in July 1995, in selected other municipalities in Bosnia:

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Comparative Law and the Ad Hoc Tribunals: A Reply to Jaye Ellis

Published on June 1, 2012        Author: 

Aldo Zammit Borda is a PhD candidate at Trinity College, University of Dublin and a Fellow of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. Previously, he served as First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malta, and as Legal Editor, Commonwealth Secretariat, London.

 1. Introduction

This post seeks to engage with Jaye Ellis’ article on ‘General Principles and Comparative Law’ (22 EJIL (2011) 4, 949–971). While it agrees with Ellis’ general proposition that comparative law provides a valuable resource for the identification of general principles of law, it argues that there are important distinctions to be drawn between the comparative law method and the review of evidence for the purpose of clarifying customary international law and general principles of law. In particular, the argument is made that the identification of general principles is not, as Ellis suggests, the mechanical extraction of the essence of rules. Rather, it is the juridical identification of a common underlying sense of what is just in the circumstances. In her article, Ellis was critical of the late Judge Cassese’s position in Erdemovic, for insisting that an approach which relied primarily on common law systems for guidance on the guilty plea was “unacceptable.” This post however agrees with Judge Cassese’s position and underscores the dangers in accepting narrow inquiries, which at best attach special weight and at worst restrict the scope of  inquiry to a single, specific legal system.

2. Comparative Law And The Ad Hoc Tribunals

In ‘The Science of Comparative Law’ (7 Cambridge LJ (1939-1941) 94), Schmitthoff observes that  “The  first  phase  consists  in  examining  the  reaction  of  a number  of  legal  systems  to  an  individual  legal  problem.  The second stage is concerned with the utilization of the results obtained  in  the  first  phase,  and  this  utilization  can  be  effected for a great variety of reasons.”

This post will mainly be concerned with the first phase of comparative law (the “collation of facts” phase), which assumes, as a prerequisite, that the topics under examination must be comparable. Schmitthoff states that comparative law has to confine itself to legal systems which have reached the same (comparable) level of evolution. Establishing a basis of comparability for the relevant topics is therefore a prerequisite of comparative law. For Barak, this basis of comparability is a common ideology. He states that, with respect to democratic legal systems, a meaningful comparison could only be had with other democratic legal systems.

A. The Application Of Comparative Law By The Ad Hoc Tribunals

Delmas-Marty observed that the attraction of comparative law stems from the sources of international criminal law, at least to the extent that custom and general principles of law are partly based on national law. (‘The Contribution of Comparative Law to a Pluralist Conception of International Criminal Law’, 1 J International Criminal Justice (2003) 13)

1. Comparative Law And Customary International Law

The process of clarifying customary international law requires reviewing evidence from, inter alia, national jurisdictions in order to make out its material sources, namely State practice and opinio juris. The process of reviewing evidence in this context resembles Schmitthoff’s first phase of comparative law, namely, the “collation of facts” phase. Read the rest of this entry…

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General Principles and Comparative Law

Published on May 31, 2012        Author: 

Jaye Ellis is Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Faculty of Law, McGill University, Canada. Her article General Principles and Comparative Law was published in (2011) 22 (4) EJIL 949-971

My article explores the source ‘general principles of international law’ from the point of view of comparative law scholarship. As international law’s agenda becomes wider and more ambitious, areas of overlap between international and municipal law become ever larger, and interactions between the two levels more numerous. It might seem reasonable to assume that general principles of law, a source which establishes an important point of contact between international and municipal law, would come into its own in such an environment. This has not been the case, however. One possible explanation is hesitation on the part of international judges to identify rules whose formal validity as rules of international law is rather tenuous. Another possible explanation is the highly unsatisfactory nature, both in theory and in practice, of the methodology currently applied to identify general principles of law. The debates at the international level regarding general principles map onto those at the municipal level concerning the ‘borrowing’ of rules from one legal system by another. It makes sense, therefore, to look into the controversies over ‘borrowing’ that play out in scholarship on comparative law, in order to gain some insights into the difficulties generated by the source general principles of law, as well as ways of alleviating these difficulties. I argue that particular attention ought to be paid to strands of comparative law scholarship which take issue with a functional approach – to put it starkly, an approach that treats legal rules as pieces that can be extracted from one machine and inserted into another – and which place emphasis on the processes through which legal systems can learn from one another.

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Discussion of Jaye Ellis “General Principles and Comparative Law”

Published on May 31, 2012        Author: 

Over the next few days, we will be hosting a discussion of one of the articles published in the last issue of the 2011 volume of European Journal of International Law. That issue included a paper by Jaye Ellis on “General Principles and Comparative Law”. Jaye is Associate Professor of Law and Associate Dean at McGill University’s Faculty of Law. Jaye posts a short  overview of her article later today. Tomorrow, Aldo Zammit Borda who is currently a PhD candidate at Trinity College, Dublin but formerly First Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malta, and Legal Editor, Commonwealth Secretariat, London will comment on Prof. Ellis’ article. Readers are invited to join in the conversation.

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The ICTY Appeals Judgment in the Haradinaj case

Published on October 11, 2010        Author: 

Dr. Gentian Zyberi was co-ordinator of the Albanian legal team in the ICJ’s Advisory proceedings on the Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo. He worked for the Defence in the Haradinaj case discussed below.

Introduction

In its judgment dated 19 July 2010 the Appeals Chamber of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) partially quashed the acquittals of Ramush Haradinaj (Kosovo’s ex-Prime Minister and former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) for the Dukagjin zone), Idriz Balaj (former KLA member, commander of the Black Eagles unit), and Lahi Brahimaj (former deputy commander of the KLA Dukagjin Operative Staff, member of the KLA General Staff).  Mr. Haradinaj and Balaj had been acquitted of all charges, while Mr. Brahimaj was found guilty of torture and sentenced to a term of six years’ imprisonment by the Trial Chamber on 3 April 2008. The Appeals Chamber ordered a partial retrial of the case, President Robinson partially dissenting. The President then proceeded to appoint a trial bench composed of Judge Moloto, Judge Hall and Judge Delvoie for this retrial.

Since this is the first retrial ordered by the ICTY in its 15 years of activity – it is surprising that so far this judgment has escaped the careful scrutiny it deserves regarding the legal standard applied and the conclusions drawn by the Appeals Chamber. The Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber had committed a mistake of law by refusing the Prosecutor’s requests for additional time to exhaust all reasonable steps to secure the testimony of two witnesses, while the Trial Chamber had ordered an extension three times, and ordering the close of the prosecution case before such reasonable steps could be taken.  It stated that the Trial Chamber ‘failed to appreciate the gravity of the threat that witness intimidation posed to the trial’s integrity’ which ‘undermined the fairness of the proceedings as guaranteed by the Statute and Rules and resulted in a miscarriage of justice.’ (Appeals Judgment, p. 22, par. 49).

Problems with the Appeals Chamber reasoning

This Appeals Chamber Judgment is problematic for a number of reasons, few of which are briefly dealt with below. As the partial dissent pointedly chastises, on the issue of retrial the Haradinaj Appeal Judgment leaves open many more questions than it closes, giving the impression that a policy driven decision-making process disregarded the rule of law, the rights of the accused, and the legal and factual diligence due in handing down a decision of such importance (Partially dissenting opinion of Judge Patrick Robinson, pp. 129-130, par. 32).  It is a pity, because witnesses’ protection in international criminal proceedings and the role of discretion in securing a fair opportunity for the Prosecutor to be heard are unquestionably two extremely important matters for international criminal justice in general.

a) Substitution of the discretion of the Trial Chamber for its own

As the partial dissent of President Robinson points out (Partially dissenting opinion of Judge Patrick Robinson, pp. 116-120, paras. 1-9), the Appeals Chamber did not abide by its own rule that it will not lightly overturn decisions based on the Trial Chamber’s discretion. This is the first of a number of significant flaws and mistakes which weaken the Appeals Chamber’s reasoning. Read the rest of this entry…

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The (Aborted) Start of the Karadzic Trial

Published on October 26, 2009        Author: 

The trial of Radovan Karadzic at the ICTY was supposed to begin this morning, but, true to his word, Karadzic decided to boycott the trial because he was allegedly not given enough time for preparation. In reality, however, it has been more than a year and three months since his transfer to the Hague – time that he spent wastefully, mainly by bombarding the Tribunal, states, and the public with his theories regarding an alleged immunity deal with Richard Holbrooke, that he claimed was somehow supposedly binding on the Tribunal (for our earlier coverage, see here, and for some discussion see here). The proceedings will resume Tuesday afternoon, and we shall see what the judges make of it.

That the trial is off to a rather bumpy start is of course entirely the Tribunal’s own fault – not because it denied Karadzic adequate time for preparation, but because it allowed him to represent himself in the first place. The ICTY’s overly generous (to put it mildly) approach to self-representation, first in the Milosevic and then in the Seselj cases (see more here), quite simply allowed determined defendants to turn the courtroom into a circus. It is not just deeply flawed legally, practically, and symbolically – it also in my view rests on a mistaken psychological assumption: that the defendants in question actually wish to persuade the judges of their innocence.

But high-ranking defendants want no such thing. It is not the judges who are their intended audience – they perform for the history books, and for those same besotted masses whom they once led and whose fate they still want to control. They wish to validate their own heroic self-image; the courtroom is only their final stage, and the judges a part of the decor. They do so not just because of the narcissistic, prima donna personality that is almost invariably a part of the pathological mental make-up of a successful politician/war criminal. Rather, they are in a sense perfectly rational in their irrationality. That they have nothing to gain by having counsel defend them to the best of their ability is plain – either they already know that they are guilty, or they believe that there’s a conspiracy out to get them, of which the judges naturally form part.

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ICTY Appeals Chamber Denies Karadzic’s Immunity Motion

Published on October 13, 2009        Author: 

Yesterday the ICTY Appeals Chamber issued (what is to be hoped is) the final decision in the Karadzic/Holbrooke immunity agreement saga. For previous commentary on the issue at EJIL: Talk!, see here and here. Though the Appeals Chamber had some quibbles with the Trial Chamber’s approach in denying an evidentiary hearing, accepting facts alleged by Karadzic pro veritate, and then discounting them, it nonetheless (quite rightly) dismissed Karadzic’s appeal.

Thus, the Appeals Chamber held that even if the alleged Karadzic immunity agreement existed, and was made with the actual authority of the Security Council (not merely an apparent authority, as Karadzic contended), this agreement could still not alter the jurisdiction of the Tribunal without a Security Council resolution to that effect (paras. 34-38). Likewise, the Chamber held that not even an agreement entered into by the Prosecution could bind the Tribunal itself (para. 41), and that Karadzic could not avail himself of the abuse of process doctrine. Like the Trial Chamber, the Appeals Chamber allowed Karadzic to pursue the Holbrooke agreement issue insofar as it may be relevant to sentencing and mitigation (paras. 54-55).

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Florence Hartmann Found Guilty of Contempt

Published on September 14, 2009        Author: 

An ICTY Trial Chamber just delivered its judgment in one of its most controversial contempt cases, finding Florence Hartmann, a journalist and previous spokesperson for the ICTY Prosecutor, guilty of contempt of tribunal for disclosing in a book and an article the contents of two confidential ICTY Appeals Chamber decisions in the Milosevic case. The Chamber found, inter alia, that the information in question was confidential, and was, contrary to the submissions of the defense, not in the public domain when Hartmann published her pieces. She was fined 7,000 euros, and an appeal is of course possible.

For previous commentary, see here, here and here.

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