Nando Times
War crimes tribunal finds Belgrade lawyer in contempt

By JEROME SOCOLOVSKY


THE HAGUE, Netherlands (January 31, 2000) - Raising suspicions of Yugoslav meddling in its proceedings, a U.N. war crimes tribunal on Monday found a lawyer in contempt of court for manipulating witnesses in the murder trial of a Bosnian Serb.

The Belgrade lawyer, Milan Vujin, was fined about $7,000. Contempt carries a maximum six-year sentence at the U.N. court.

The ruling lent credibility to allegations that the Yugoslav government and Bosnian Serb authorities had attempted to sabotage the proceedings to prevent the fingering of higher-ups in the chain of command.

It was the second contempt verdict at the tribunal, set up in 1993 to prosecute suspected war criminals in the Balkan conflicts. Last year, a defense attorney was fined about $4,500 for uttering the name of an anonymous witness during a public hearing in the case of Bosnian Croat commander Tihomir Blaskic.

Of the 20 witnesses heard in the Vujin case, several testified he had acted on directives from two key suspects sought by the tribunal - former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and military chief of staff Ratko Mladic. The court has also indicted the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic.

The judges found that Vujin "manipulated witnesses" in the trial of his client, Dusan Tadic, to prevent them from identifying others who may have had a role in the murders of Muslims and Croats in the Prijedor region of northwestern Bosnia.

Vujin did this by "persuading them to lie or withhold the truth when making statements" or by bribing them. The judges added that he had submitted to the court information which he knew to be false.

"The appeals chamber regards the contempt as serious," said Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen. "The conduct of Mr. Vujin in this case strikes at the very heart of the criminal justice system."

In addition to the fine, Vujin was to be struck from the list of international lawyers eligible to represent defendants at the tribunal.

The Tadic case was the first and longest prosecution at the tribunal. It ended last week with an appeals decision reducing the defendant's sentence from 25 to 20 years.

It was not immediately clear whether Monday's ruling would have any bearing on the Tadic case. Tadic's lawyers declined to comment.

Vujin served as Tadic's counsel from mid-1997 to November 1998. His salary was paid out of the tribunal's U.N.-financed budget.

Tadic's former chief counsel, Dutch lawyer Michail Wladimiroff, told the court in September he was astonished when a list of potential defense witnesses turned up on the desk of Prijedor police chief Simo Drljaca.

Drljaca, also wanted by the tribunal on charges of genocide, was killed in July 1997 while resisting arrest by NATO peacekeepers.

When he got in touch with some of the witnesses, Wladimoroff said it appeared "as if someone had carefully choreographed them."

"I realized that (Vujin) was taking control of the case for different aims from mine. He wasn't taking care of the interests of Mr. Tadic, he was taking care of somebody else's interests," the Dutch lawyer said.

"His interest seemed to be to defend the Serb cause and to protect other people from becoming involved in Tadic's defense."




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