Hague: Judge disqualified from Šešelj case

The Trial Chamber of the Hague Tribunal has granted a motion of Vojislav Šešelj's defense to disqualify Danish Judge Frederik Harhoff from his trial.

Source: Tanjug
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The chamber found that Harhoff had demonstrated "an unacceptable appearance of bias in favour of conviction."

Harhoff previously circulated a letter to 56 friends and associates in which he said that the acquittals of Croatian General Ante Gotovina, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav Army Momcilo Perišić and former head of Serbia's State Security Service Jovica Stanišić came as a result of politically motivated pressure on judges exerted by Hague President Theodor Meron.

In his motion from July 9, Šešelj submitted that the letter shows "a strong inclination on the part of Judge Harhoff to convict accused persons of Serbian ethnicity."

Harhoff has been a member of the Trial Chamber which from 2007 to March 2013 tried Šešelj for crimes against Croats and Muslims in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Vojvodina committed from 1991 to 1993.

The Prosecution suggested that the letter was private, circulated to a group of friends and, in criticizing recent jurisprudence, was no different from many other public statements disagreeing with the jurisprudence of the Tribunal.

The Prosecution also argued that as the letter does not contain any specific references to Šešelj's case, it cannot substantiate allegations of bias in relation to this particular accused.

The Chamber, however, made a decision Wednesday to grant Šešelj's request and found that the presumption of impartiality was rebutted in the letter.

The decision was signed by Judges Bakone Justice Moloto and Burton Hall, while Judge Liu Daqun submitted his dissenting opinion.

The report says that any reasonable observer properly informed would reasonably apprehend bias on the part of Judge Harhoff in favor of conviction, including for the purposes of Šešelj's case.

The Chamber also noted that the letter subsequently became openly available both in print and on the Internet, which means it was not a "private" letter as the Prosecution argued.

It was previously announced that a verdict in the Šešelj case would be delivered in October 30 of this year.

In closing statements last year, prosecutors demanded a conviction and 28-year sentence, while the accused, who is self-represented, seeks acquittal.

The leader of the Serb Radical Party (SRS) turned himself in in early 2003 and has been detained at the Hague ever since.

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