Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Balkans: UN tribunal sentences member of Bosnian Serb’s legal team for contempt of court

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s today sentenced a member of a legal team defending a Bosnian Serb to 12 months’ imprisonment for contempt of the court.

The sentencing of Jelena Rašic follows her conviction last Tuesday of having knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice by procuring false witness statements in exchange for money.

Announcing her sentencing, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) stated that “the crimes which Jelena Rašic has admitted to having committed are grave. Procurement of false evidence in any situation amounts to direct interference with the administration of justice. When perpetrated before an international criminal jurisdiction, such as the Tribunal, such interference has far-reaching consequences.”

Ms. Rašic was the case manager on the defence team of Milan Lukic, a Bosnian Serb who was sentenced in 2010 by the trial chamber to life imprisonment for crimes committed in the eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad.

Last month she pleaded guilty to five counts of contempt of court, including obtaining a false witness statement from Zuhdija Tabakovic in exchange for €1,000 in cash.

Ms. Rašic was also convicted of inciting Mr. Tabakovic to offer bribes and to procure false witness statements from two other individuals. Mr. Tabakovic accepted and on 15 March 2010 was convicted of contempt of the tribunal and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.

The tribunal said it would give Ms. Rašic credit for the 78 days she has already spent in detention, and also ruled that the remaining eight months of the sentence would be suspended for a period of two years.

In a news release, the tribunal stated that the decision to suspend the remaining eight months of Ms. Rašic’s sentence was made taking into account the “difficult circumstances engendered by her being the only female detainee in the United Nations Detention Unit, Rašic’s health condition, her comparably young age and the fact that this is the first time she has received a prison sentence.”

The tribunal stated that Ms. Rašic will not have to serve the last eight months of her sentence unless she is convicted for another crime punishable with imprisonment over the next two years.