Presiding judge Antonetti brought up a number of unresolved administrative issues and the length of the trial of the Serbian Radicals’ leader. At the same time, Antonetti expressed his hope that a Rule 98bis hearing could be held soon. Does the judge think that the investigation into the alleged intimidation of witnesses by the OTP should include Carla Del Ponte?

Vojislav Šešelj u sudnici TribunalaVojislav Šešelj u sudnici Tribunala

‘The situation is serious but not desperate’, French judge Antonetti said today, in light of a number of issues and a long delay in the trial of Vojislav Seselj for crimes in Croatia, Vojvodina and BH. As Judge Antonetti noted, ‘chances are’ there would soon be a Rule98bis hearing. This rule allows the accused to request to be acquitted after the prosecution rests its case if he considers that the prosecution failed to call evidence that would, if accepted by the judges, lead to a conviction.

It remains uncertain if there will be Rule98bis hearing at all, because the accused has indicated he will not call any evidence if the issues around the financing of his defense team remained unresolved. As Judge Antonetti noted, the Trial Chamber will soon rule on the issue. Seselj warned the judges he would not accept any solution which would fall short of covering all the expenses of Seselj’s defense team from the first day of his arrival in The Hague.

At the beginning of the hearing today, the presiding judge said that he ‘received a disturbing letter from a person close to Seselj’, about Seselj’s cardio-vascular problems. The presiding judge ordered that Seselj be examined by specialists. He is already under a cardiologist’s supervision for arrhythmia and tachycardia, Seselj replied, adding that he has recently received a treatment he called ‘electro-shocks’ and that he will have to undergo minor heart surgery.

Most of the hearing today was devoted to the discussion of the prosecutor’s motion to tender into evidence 13 excerpts from Mladic’s diaries. Saying that he was ‘tired’ of writing, the accused opposed the prosecution’s motion orally. On the one side, Seselj contests the authenticity of Mladic’s diaries, corroborating his claims with the reports in the Croatian press. On the other hand, he contends that parts of the diaries referring to him are irrelevant. The prosecutor argued that Seselj ‘either didn’t understand or should read more carefully’ the prosecution’s motion, and the selected parts of the diaries; according to the prosecutor, they are highly relevant for the allegations in the indictment about the joint criminal enterprise.

Judge Antonetti said that the Trial Chamber would soon rule on the admissibility of Mladic’s diaries. The amicus curiae who should investigate if there is a prima facie case against ‘some members of the prosecution team’ for contempt of court for the alleged intimidation and coercion against the witnesses to make them incriminate the Serbian Radicals’ leader has not yet been appointed, the presiding judge said.

If the amicus curiae concludes that there is a prima facie case for the contempt of court proceedings, Judge Antonetti stated he would recuse himself from the Trial Chamber which will hear the case, since former chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte mentioned him several times in her book. The fact that the judge has brought up the possibility of a conflict of interest in relation to Del Ponte has left the impression that he felt the investigation should cover the former chief prosecutor and not only investigators – as the spokespersons of both the ICTY and OTP have been claiming. Antonetti did not say that explicitly but he didn’t rebuff Seselj when he said this was ‘precisely how’ he interpreted Antonetti’s intention to recuse himself from the contempt of court case.