11 September 2008 A former aide to a top Serbian ultranationalist politician has been found guilty of contempt by the United Nations tribunal set up to deal with the worst war crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.
Ljubiša Petković was sentenced today by the trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to four months in prison for failing to appear as a witness in the trial of Vojislav ešelj, the president of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS).
The Tribunal rejected the defendant’s claim that his state of health precluded him from informing the chamber that he could not answer the terms of the confidential subpoena for Mr. ešelj’s proceedings.
“When ordered to appear as a Trial Chamber witness … the accused could not refuse to comply with the subpoena stating that he was a ‘defence witness,’” the presiding judge, Jean-Claude Antonetti, said.
He stressed that “witnesses are not the property of the parties and that when the Trial Chamber decides, by way of subpoena, that their testimony is necessary for the establishment of the truth, they have to comply with it.”
Mr. ešelj is facing three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes relating to his alleged role in an ethnic cleansing campaign by Serbian forces in the Vojvodina region of Serbia between August 1991 and at least September 1993. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which include murder, torture, imprisonment and deportation.
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