ICTY president Carmel Agius has dismissed the motion filed by Ratko Mladic's defense seeking the disqualification of judges Orie and Flügge from the chamber hearing the case against the former VRS Main Staff commander

Carmel Agius, judge at the TribunalCarmel Agius, judge at the Tribunal

On 20 July, Ratko Mladic's defense filed a motion asking for the proceedings against their client to be terminated because of the 'systemic bias' evinced by two judges in the Trial Chamber, three judges in the Appeals Chamber, the presidents of the Tribunal and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, and some high-ranking of the United Nations. As the defense alleged, they all 'neglected the right of the accused to the presumed innocent and convicted him' even before the trial was over. The motion was addressed to the presidents of the two institutions, the Tribunal and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, judges Carmel Agius and Theodor Meron.

The first to respond to the motion was Judge Meron. As soon as he received the motion, he declared he and the Mechanism he heads lacked jurisdiction to rule on motions that pertain to current trials before the Tribunal.

The Tribunal's president Agius responded today. He also notes that the defense's motion was sent to the wrong address: according to the Tribunal's rules, such motions must first be sent to the judge presiding over the trial chamber which includes the judge whose disqualification is being sought.

Nevertheless, Judge Agius decided to act in the interest of justice and judicial economy and to consider the defense's motion for the disqualification of judges Alphons Orie andChristoph Flügge.

In the decision which was made public today, Agius states that the judges are also entitled to the presumption of innocence; the burden of proof is on the party seeking their disqualification. The defense should therefore proffer evidence of their purported bias. According to Judge Agius, Mladic's defense failed to provide any arguments and evidence in its motion which would lead a reasonable and informed observer to doubt the impartiality of judges Orie and Flügge. The Tribunal's president therefore sees no reason why he should set up a panel of three judges who would then consider the defense's motion for the disqualification of judges.