Praljak has asked for a stay of proceedings until he has received ‘in the language he understands’ all the relevant documents including his judgment from May 2013 and all the transcripts from his trial. He was tried with five other Herceg Bosna leaders. The trial began in April 2006. Praljak insists on this because he understands only Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. Praljak intends to represent himself in the future proceedings because he claims he has no money to pay his lawyers

Slobodan Praljak in the courtroomSlobodan Praljak in the courtroom

Slobodan Praljak has called for a stay of proceedings in his case until he has received ‘in the language he understands’ the following documents: the judgment in the case against him and five other Herceg Bosna leaders, delivered on 29 May 2013, the notice of appeal against the judgment filed by Praljak’s lawyers at the time when the Tribunal had been willing to refund the costs, the prosecution’s notice of appeal, other appellate briefs and the full transcript of the trial from April 2006.

Praljak has invoked the Tribunal’s Statute, the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and other legal instruments that stipulate that an accused has the right to receive relevant documents in the language he understands; the only exception is if they are represented by a lawyer who understands the language of the proceedings. Praljak has noted that he no longer has expert legal assistance, since the Tribunal has refused to pay for his lawyers from its budget.

The Tribunal cut off funds for Praljak’s defense when the Tribunal’s Registry determined that contrary to his claims, the accused was actually not indigent. In an enquiry that stretched over several years, the Registry established that Praljak was worth at least 6.456 million euros. Consequently, the Registry ordered Praljak to pay back 3.293 million euros the Tribunal has paid over the past eight years to Praljak’s defense team from the legal assistance fund. President Meron dismissed Praljak’s appeal, confirmed the decision and ordered him to pay the debt to the Tribunal.

Praljak continues to claim he has ‘no money’. He has arranged with his lawyers, Nika Pinter and Natasa Fauveau Ivanovic, to represent him pro bono, for a while, but only on procedural issues. That means that Praljak would represent himself in the appellate proceedings and would personally deal with the key issues of his defense, including the drafting of the appellate brief. Praljak claims that he doesn’t speak the Tribunal’s official languages, English and French. He understands nothing but BCS (Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian) and insists that this is a problem. All the judgments, motions, decisions and transcripts from the trial are written in English and French. Praljak has now sought a stay in the proceedings until all the documents have been translated into a language he understands. The judgment in the case against Praljak and other Herceg Bosna officials has 2,629 pages, and the transcript of the trial has no less than 21,000 pages.

Simultaneously with the motion for a stay of the proceedings, Praljak has asked the Tribunal to assign counsel to him in the interest of justice at the Tribunal’s expense in line with Rule 45 ter. The rule pertains to the accused who want to represent themselves but are not able to do it or who abuse the right to represent themselves as a means to obstruct the proceedings. In such cases counsel can be assigned to them. In his motion, Praljak refers to Croatian and BH laws which stipulate that the accused must have professional counsel if they are charged with crimes punishable with up to 10 or more years in prison. The Trial Chamber sentenced Praljak to 20 years.