Utter contempt of court at the ICTY

05 October 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

It was two years ago that judge Patrick Robinson, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), warned in a speech to the UN Security Council that contempt proceedings had a “negative impact on the expeditious progress of trials”.

Contempt proceedings, Judge Robinson said, were “sapping the strength of the Tribunal and diverting us from our main objective: the fair and expeditious completion of our trials and appeals”.

As an example, the Tribunal's president cited the peculiar case of Vojislav Seselj – a Serbian politician charged with grave crimes against Croats and Muslims during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. His trial has been adjourned for months in order to investigate possible contempt offences.

In June 2009, when president Robinson spoke to the Security Council, Seselj had already been charged with contempt of court for revealing the identities of protected witnesses in one of his numerous books in which he regularly offends and abuses the Tribunal's judges and prosecutors.

Fast forward to autumn 2011 - and Seselj's contempt of court score card reads: sentenced to 15 months imprisonment; awaiting a second sentencing judgement; facing yet another trial and probably, new charges.

And that was after the Tribunal amended its rules to “deal expeditiously with contempt cases without delaying war crimes trials”.

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