Berko Zecevic’s Passport “Found”, Extradition to Take Place

16. February 2011.00:00
The transfer of Berko Zecevic to the Hague Tribunal will take place tomorrow as planned, after Zecevic's “passport was found”, BIRN-Justice Report is told by his Defence attorney Dusko Tomic.

Tomic said earlier that Zecevic’s extradition might be postponed because he did not have a passport. The Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Netherlands told BIRN that “travel documents are not even needed” for such a process.

Bosnian institutions which are involved in the execution of the arrest warrant and Zecevic’s transfer to the Hague were not able to confirm the information concerning his extradition.

Zecevic, a university professor and court expert in ballistics, was arrested on February 11 on a warrant issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.The Tribunal filed an indictment against Zecevic because he refused to testify as a prosecution witness at the trial of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity..

According to the procedures, once Zecevic has been transferred to the Hague, a hearing will be held at which he will enter his plea, but it is also possible that the indictment will be annulled.

“Of course, there is still a possibility that Zecevic will change his mind and agree to testify. In that case, the Court can annul the indictment,” said Nerma Jelacic, spokesperson for the ICTY at The Hague.

Dusko Tomic stressed that Zecevic had simply asked the Tribunal to reduce the duration of his testimony due to health problems caused by a spine surgery he underwent.

“The professor never said he would not testify, but he said he was incapable of testifying for more than five hours. If the Hague Tribunal agrees that he can to testify for five hours, he will do it. Otherwise, they will have to try him,” Tomic said, saying that the Tribunal originally planned for Zecevic’s testimony to last for five days in a row.

However, the Hague Tribunal says that these claims are not true because in his response to the court summons, Zecevic mentioned three other reasons before the health-related one for not accepting to testify.

“The witness says he does not want to testify because he has been at the Hague five times already and testified at four trials, the cooperation with the Tribunal has had a negative effect on his career, the Prosecution did not treat him well and he underwent a spine surgery so he cannot sit for long,” says the order for the opening of a criminal investigation against Zecevic, issued by the Trial Chamber of the Hague Tribunal.

The Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Netherlands says that it hopes a solution will be found and Zecevic will testify after all.

“We hope that Professor Zecevic’s status of a witness before the Tribunal will be restored and a solution will be found to organise the testimony in a way that will not further deteriorate the health condition of the 62-year old professor at the Mechanical Engineering Faculty in Sarajevo,” said Miranda Sidran-Kamisali, Bosnian ambassador in the Netherlands.M.T.