Judge Antonetti has decided to unseal a memorandum he sent to President Meron on 8 July 2013 in his capacity as the presiding judge in the Trial Chamber hearing the Seselj case. In the memorandum, Judge Antonetti strongly opposes the motion to disqualify Judge Harhoff and denies the allegations of the appearance of bias on Judge Harhoff’s part

Jean-Claude Antonetti, presiding judge in the Seselj trialJean-Claude Antonetti, presiding judge in the Seselj trial

The avalanche of motions in the case of Judge Harhoff that began yesterday continued today with more documents.

Considering it ‘absolutely necessary’ in order to prevent a ‘serious destabilization of our judicial function', French judge Antonetti, who is the presiding judge in the Trial Chamber hearing the Seselj case, unsealed the memorandum he sent to the Tribunal’s President Meron on 8 July 2013. In the memorandum, Judge Antonetti expressed his opinion about Harhoff’s case.

The case began when Harhoff’s private letter to his friends and colleagues was leaked to the press. In the letter, Harhoff expressed his concern over the Tribunal’s ‘new course’ reflected in a series of acquittals of high-ranking military and police officials from Croatia and Serbia.

In the letter, Seselj saw Harhoff’s ‘inclination to convict’ the accused persons, particularly those who are ethnic Serbs. This prompted Seselj to call for Judge Harhoff’s disqualification from the Trial Chamber hearing his case for the crimes against humanity in Croatia, Vojvodina and Bosnia and Herzegovina. President Meron referred Seselj’s motion to Vice-President Agius, who appointed a panel of three judges. The panel ruled with the majority of votes that Harhoff’s letter could create ‘an appearance of bias’ and upheld the motion for the disqualification.

In considering Harhoff’s case, the panel should have taken into account the opinion of Judge Antonetti and the written statement of the judge whose impartiality had been brought into question. However, neither of the two documents is referenced in the majority’s decision, prompting Antonetti and Harhoff to seek a ‘clarification’ yesterday to verify if the panel had received and considered the documents.

Judge Antonetti did not wait for the response of the panel or of Vice-President Agius: today he disclosed the confidential memorandum he sent on 8 July 2013 in which he strongly opposed the disqualification of Judge Harhoff. In Antonetti’s view, Harhoff was a victim of an illegal leak of his private correspondence whose confidentiality was protected by international legal instruments. As Antonetti noted, since the beginning of the trial the Danish judge has shown ‘great professionalism’: Judge Antonetti has never noticed any sign of Judge Harhoff’s bias towards the accused. On the contrary, in the course of the deliberations, Judge Harhoff has proved himself to be completely impartial, Judge Antonetti said.

Recalling that the judgment is scheduled to be rendered on 30 October 2013, and that the accused has been in the detention unit for more than 10 years, Judge Antonetti notes that the completion of the case should have ‘absolute priority’ over everything else.

Finally, Judge Antonetti expressed his hope that ‘our colleague’ Frederik Harhoff would not end up being doubly victimized: first for the leaking of a private letter and then because his impartiality has been unjustly called into doubt.

Today, judges Antonetti and Lattanzi sent a new memorandum to Vice-President Agius, urging him to wait for the panel’s response before appointing a new judge in Seselj’s Trial Chamber, as it is theoretically possible that it will reconsider and change its position on Judge Harhoff’s disqualification, after hearing the new evidence.