Saturday, February 25, 2012

Balkans: UN tribunal sentences former Serb official to prison term for refusal to testify

UN 24 February 2012 – The United Nations war crimes tribunal set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s today sentenced a former municipal officer to two months in prison for refusing to testify in the trial of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic.

Milan Tupajic, former chief of the crisis staff and war-time president of the municipality of Sokolac in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was found guilty of contempt of court by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Announcing its decision, the ICTY trial chamber said that Mr. Tupajic’s failure to comply with an order to appear as a witness in the Karadžic trial had deprived that case of relevant evidence.

Mr. Tupajic had told the court that his main reason for refusing to appear related to health concerns.

But the judges found that “his health concerns do not constitute a just excuse for his failure to comply with the orders as contained in the subpoenas.”

The ICTY – which sits in The Hague in the Netherlands – said Mr. Tupajic, who was arrested in December last year, was entitled to credit for time already served in detention.

Mr. Karadžic is charged with two counts of genocide and a series of other crimes, including murder, extermination, persecution, deportation and hostage taking, related to actions against Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. His trial began in October 2009.