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INFO::: Transitional Justice > The Hague Tribunal - PAGE 3 > Jutarnji list


Jutarnji list

April 2007

Sir Geoffrey Nice


In your newspaper's issue of 12 April 2007, in the article "Sanader: Croatia isalso interested in why the documents did not reach the ICJ" it is written:

"The New York Times published on Monday that in the trial before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, Serbia withheld some crucial evidence concerning its role in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995, by making parts of the transcripts from meetings of the Supreme Defence Council unavailable to that highest UN court, with the permission of the Office Of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY)".

From 2002 to 2006 I was in charge of the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic, and the documents mentioned here were used as evidence against Slobodan Milosevic. I wish to use this opportunity to emphasize that neither my team nor I were part of that "permission", as the citation above seems to imply.

The decision to allow protective measures (closing the materials to the public) for a large number of pages from the documents of the Supreme Defense Council (VSO) of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia came directly from Carla Del Ponte. In a letter to Goran Svilanovic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia at the time, in May 2003, she gave consent for protective measures of a "reasonable" part from the collection of VSO documents, even though no one from prosecution had previously viewed those documents. I opposed her intention, and warned her in a letter not to make any concessions to Serbia. Namely, that same month I had initiated a legal procedure, through which the Prosecution requested those documents from Belgrade in the manner specified by the Statute and the Regulations of the ICTY. My intention was to obtain the documents and use them in the open sessions of the court. For that reason it is not an accident that right at that time Belgrade, through Ms. Del Ponte, tried to make a "deal" and with it tried to strengthen its position in the legal procedure before it. It succeeded. Ms. Del Ponte completely ignored my letter.

The deal that Carla Del Ponte struck with Belgrade did not have any legal basis. It was an unnecessary "deal" that Belgrade used only to hide proof of Yugoslavia's involvement in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from the ICJ, and also from its own public. On the other hand, the new government in Belgrade did not have anything against those materials being used as proof against Slobodan Milosevic in closed session. The motive of Ms. Del Ponte in consenting to such a deal is not clear to me even to this day. Namely, the Prosecution not only had no benefit from that "deal", but on the contrary, it created an unfavorable precedent, because subsequently Belgrade placed the same conditions on similar documents -- and successfully, because Ms. Del Ponte again would personally approve such initiatives from Belgrade. On the other hand, my team and I expended much time and effort convincing the judges to remove the protections from those documents, in the name of transparency of the court, and particularly with regard to such cases where the trial can potentially uncover offenses of state institutions that were being hidden and still are hidden, not only from various courts and victims, but from the state's own citizens. Only in extraordinary circumstances should trials be closed to the public.



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