[JURIST] A panel of judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] ruled Wednesday that there was no valid immunity deal [decision, PDF] between war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; ICTY backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke [PBS profile] and that even if such an agreement had existed, it would not be valid under international law. Judge Iain Bonomy wrote:
The Trial Chamber notes the vague nature of the Accused's submissions in relation to the alleged agreement. In particular, in the Official Submission the Accused states repeatedly and emphatically that "there is no doubt that this offer was made in the name of the USA" and refers to the alleged agreement as being "between the USA and me", but in the Motion he argues he is "the beneficiary of … a specific agreement not to prosecute him as an individual" and that the alleged agreement is attributable to the ICTY. The Accused does not specify in what form the agreement was made. The Accused indicates that he intends to demonstrate "the effective control of the United States over the peace process in Bosnia from August 1995 … [and] the relationship between the United States and the ICTY OTP" in order to draw a connection between the actions of Mr. Holbrooke in his capacity as a representative of the United States and either the United Nations, its member states or the Office of the Prosecutor of the Tribunal. The Trial Chamber considers that the Accused makes no prima facie showing of that connection, and appears to have misinterpreted the law on this point.
The Trial Chamber considers it well established that any immunity agreement in respect of an accused indicted for genocide, war crimes and/or crimes against humanity before an international tribunal would be invalid under international law. The Trial Chamber further considers that, pursuant to the Statute and Rules of the Tribunal, neither its own mandate nor that of the Prosecutor is affected by any alleged undertaking made by Mr. Holbrooke.
The Trial Chamber concludes that this argument is without substantive basis, and therefore that information that the Accused may intend to use in support of it is not material to the preparation of the defence in this respect.
The panel ruled, however, that prosecutors must turn over to Karadzic any notes, agreements, or recordings related to the alleged immunity deal, in response to an October motion [motion, PDF; JURIST report] by Karadzic. In August, Karadzic alleged that Holbrooke agreed [submission, PDF; JURIST report] in 1996 that Karadzic would not face war crimes charges if he removed himself from power. It is unclear whether Karadzic will appeal [AP report] the panel decision. Prosecutors do not plan to appeal the turnover ruling.
Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide, murder, persecution, deportation, and "other inhumane acts," for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors filed a motion to amend the indictment [JURIST report] in September, in hopes of simplifying the proceedings. Karadzic was arrested [JURIST report] in July after evading capture for nearly 13 years. He was originally indicted in 1995 but had been in hiding under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine practitioner [BBC report]. He repeatedly refused to enter a plea on the charges, with an ICTY judge eventually entering a not guilty plea [JURIST reports] on his behalf. If the court approves the amended indictment, Karadzic will be asked to enter new pleas.