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Cablegate: Icty Sees Local Ngos As Credible Trial Monitors

VZCZCXRO7116
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0227 0651440
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061440Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7386
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000227

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE, S/WCI, INR, INL
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO NSC BRAUN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KAWC PGOV HR WAR CRIMES
SUBJECT: ICTY SEES LOCAL NGOS AS CREDIBLE TRIAL MONITORS


1. (U) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: Croatian NGOs Documenta and the
Center for Peace, Nonviolence, and Human Rights discussed
their recently released annual war crimes trial monitoring
report with judicial officials at a March 3 roundtable in
Zagreb. Panelists, including a judge, a prosecutor, a law
professor, and a human rights activist, all agreed that the
report showed credible NGO trial-monitoring capacity and
painted a realistic picture of war crimes trials in Croatia.
Post supports both NGOs through war crimes program grants.

2. (SBU) Thomas Osorio, Zagreb head of mission for the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
(ICTY), attended roundtable at PolOff's urging. He concluded
that local NGOs offered a credible alternative to OSCE trial
monitors for the Ademi-Norac case, transferred to Croatia
under rule 11bis and scheduled to go to trial in Zagreb in
May. Osorio, who told PolOff that Hague Chief Prosecutor Del
Ponte had charged him with finding an alternative to OSCE
monitors by the end of 2007, urged NGOs to approach his
office if they are interested in entering a future monitoring
agreement with the ICTY. Post agrees with Osorio's
assessment that local NGOs are capable of objective trial
monitoring and will fill any information gaps in this area
after OSCE closes its mission in Croatia. END SUMMARY AND
COMMENT.

REPORT CONCLUSIONS: MARKED IMPROVEMENT, OLD WEAKNESSES
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. (U) Center for Peace and Documenta monitored 18 war crimes
trials across Croatia in 2006, drawing the following positive
conclusions:
- the Chief State Prosecutor's Office has strengthened
regional cooperation on war crimes trials, discontinued
pursuit of "in absentia" trials, launched investigations
regardless of the ethnicity of perpetrators or victims,
pursued prosecutions based on command responsibility, and
increased transparency of their work; and
- County Courts (the first instance court for war crimes)
registered no major violations of the law on criminal
procedure, prevented supporters of defendants from staging
obstructive incidents on court premises, successfully
completed several trials where previous verdicts were
overturned by the Supreme Court, and cooperated with police
in Croatia and in the region to bring witnesses to the court.

4. (U) The report identified the following weaknesses:
- continuation of "in absentia" trials against large numbers
of defendants (Note: This figure is skewed by several large
group indictments filed in Vukovar before the change in
policy),
- insufficiently detailed indictments,
- the burden of repeating trials when verdicts are overturned
by the Supreme Court,
- inconsistent policies regarding pre-trial detention, and
- insufficient support to victims and witnesses.
An English summary of the complete report is available
on-line at:
www.centar-za-mir.hr/pdf/wc Annual%20Report%202006.pdf .

5. (U) Panelists, which included Vukovar County Court
President Ante Zeljko, a Deputy State Prosecutor Antun
Kvakan, law professor and MP Ivo Josipovic, and Croatian
Helsinki Committee president Zarko Puhovski human rights
activist, agreed that the report was generally accurate.
Judge Zeljko explained why "in absentia" trials are sometimes
necessary and are in fact specifically provided for in
Croatian law. Josipovic noted that he is finalizing a trial
monitoring handbook (financed by Post) for use by NGO trial
monitors.

WITNESS SUPPORT/FACILITATION IDENTIFIED AS CRITICAL NEED
--------------------------------------------- -----------
6. (U) NGO representatives stressed the importance of
development of a system to support victims and witnesses
during the trial process. Court logistics are frequently
intimidating to witnesses, who often have to use the same
entrance as the defendants and members of the public, and who
must testify while defendants sit just a few feet behind
them. Currently, no one prepares witnesses for what awaits
them in court, and there are no logistical services to assist
them in appearing. COMMENT: Embassy is currently considering
assisting the GoC in filling this witness-support gap,
possibly by redirecting some SEED funds currently allocated
to other rule-of-law activities. END COMMENT.
BRADTKE

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