Thursday, July 24, 2008

Judgement of ICTY Trial Chamber in Contempt of Court Case

On Thursday, 24 June, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted Kosovar journalist Baton Haxhiu for contempt of the Tribunal (Case No. IT-04-84-R77.5, judgement [PDF]).

In April 2008 Haxhiu was indicted on contempt of court charges, pursuant to Rule 77(A)(ii) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal, for allegedly revealing the identity of a protected witness who testified during the trial of former Kosovar military leader Ramush Haradinaj et al. According to the indictment, Haxhiu obtained information about the witness which he subsequently published in a newspaper article in contravention of a Trial Chamber order.

On 3 April the Trial Chamber acquitted Haradinaj, a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo between March and September 1998, but noted “significant difficulties in securing testimony of a large number of witnesses.” Also the Prosecutor’s claims of witness intimidation cast doubt on the proceedings and in May the Prosecution filed an appeal in which it called on the Appeals Chamber to order a re-trial of Haradinaj due to what it described as the “prevailing circumstances of witness intimidation and fear.”

Convinced that Haxhiu disclosed protected information and that he knew that his disclosure was done in breach of a court order, the Trial Chamber found him guilty of the crime of contempt. Regarding the sentence, the Trial Chamber considered, inter alia, that the conduct of Haxhiu "[C]ould have jeopardized the security of the witness and his family. Moreover it was of a kind to undermine confidence in the effectiveness of the Tribunal’s protective measures orders, and to have the effect of dissuading witnesses from cooperating with the Tribunal." Haxhiu was fined €7.000.

2 comments:

Niels said...

€ 7000.- is a very low punishment for jeopardizing the safety of a witness.

Even though it is nominally the maximum fine that could be imposed, I wonder if it would not be more appropriate to sentence the journalist to a term of imprisonment.

Under Rule 77A, those in contempt of the court can either be fined, or sentenced to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months.

The maximum fine is very light compared to the maximum term of imprisonment.

For cases regarding war crimes it is vital that witnesses remain safe and anonymous.

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