CHRISTOPHER C. BLACK Barrister-at-Law
Mr. Hans Holthuis, Registrar,
Mr. Christian Rohde, Legal Officer
Office of the Registrar,
August 4, 2001
International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia
Churchillplein 1 2517 JW
P.O. Box 13888 2501 EW
RE The Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic
I am writing to you on behalf of the lawyers and jurists who make up the Legal Committee of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic [ICDSM] on a matter of great urgency and concern. Slobodan Milosevic has now been held in detention for more than a month. Until today, and despite many efforts, his legal advisers from Belgrade who represent President Milosevic with respect to ongoing actions in the District Court of Belgrade have not been permitted to consult with him on a confidential basis, a fundamental right, necessity and requirement of all legal systems in the civilised world.
No reason is given for the refusal of his counsel’s request except a flat statement that it will not be permitted.
On Friday, August 3, Mr. Dragoslav Ognjanovic, counsel for President Milosevic with respect to the Belgrade matters met with Mr. Christian Rohde to request permission to visit President Milosevic to consult with him about those matters. It was expected that this would not be a problem in view of the decision to permit Mr. Ramsey Clark to consult with President Milosevic on a confidential basis last week and in view of that meeting taking place apparently to everyone’s satisfaction and without any problems. Instead Mr. Ognjanovic met with a roadblock in the form of another request to fill out all the papers that had been completed on July 20th.
It is our view, especially in light of the hostile atmosphere in which the meeting took place and the personal attacks made during that meeting on the professional integrity of Mr. Ognjanovic, a distinguished counsel, that the objective of the Registrar’s office is to prevent President Milosevic from having access to legal counsel from Yugoslavia despite President Milosevic’s express request to see them. Another counsel from Belgrade, Mr. Zdenko Tomanovic has now been waiting 25 days for permission to see his client. This unjustified and unexplained delay is not only a violation of international legal practice, it is a violation of the ICTY’s own rules.
When I met with Mr. Rohde on the morning of July 9th in order to obtain permission to see President Milosevic who had requested to see me I was met initially with a refusal on the grounds that President Milosevic had decided not to have counsel. However I was assured that if President Milosevic advised the Registrar that he wished to consult with counsel that would be permitted and that such visits would be confidential. At that meeting I was accompanied by Professor André Tremblay, professor of law at the University of Montréal and former senior adviser to Robert Bourassa, Premier of Québec.
As there was some confusion at that point as to what President Milosevic had actually told the Registry I agreed to accept Mr. Rohde’s offer of permission to see President Milosevic on a monitored basis. However, it was clear to myself and Professor Tremblay that it was established that visits by counsel on a confidential basis would be permitted if President Milosevic so requested.
In my meeting with President Milosevic he was advised of his need to request to see counsel in order to meet with them on a confidential basis and that this was the position taken by Mr. Rohde. Acting on this information and advice, he subsequently requested to see several counsel. Unfortunately, when Mr. Ramsey Clark made his request to see President Milosevic he was denied permission to see him on a confidential basis, contrary to what I and Professor Tremblay had been told, and contrary to what I advised Mr. Clark to expect. Further he was told that the Registry was taking the position that the total time allotted for all these meetings was to be ten hours. Mr. Clark was then forced to bring a motion before Trial Chamber III to address the matter. Even that was not simply dealt with as the Registry initially denied having received his motion.
The intervention of the Trial Chamber resulted in the proper decision that President Milosevic be allowed to consult with counsel on a confidential basis. However, that intervention should not have been necessary for two reasons: first, the refusal of permission is against all judicial norms and flies in the face of everything the United Nations is supposed to stand for, and secondly an undertaking had been made by Mr. Rohde that consultation with counsel on a confidential basis would be allowed if President Milosevic so requested.
Aside from the legal and ethical issues involved in detainees being allowed the right to consult with counsel, we expect that undertakings by officials of the ICTY will be fulfilled.
Otherwise, how can President Milosevic, his counsel or the public rely on statements made by officials of the ICTY and how can we deal with each other on a frank and professional basis?
As a team of international lawyers who are committed to preserve justice in the case of President Milosevic and to ensure he receives a fair trial, we insist that his basic rights be acknowledged and that he be permitted contact on a confidential basis with all counsel he wishes to consult with whether with respect to his matters in Yugoslavia, The Netherlands or the ICTY itself. And we demand that Mr. Ognjanovic and Mr. Tomanovic be given right of access immediately. You already have in your possession the Power of Attorney signed by [President Milosevic’s wife] Ms. Mira Markovic with respect to the matters before the Yugoslav courts and you already have the necessary papers filled out by both lawyers some time ago.
The matter of right to counsel with respect to President Milosevic needs to be settled once and for all. The Committee proposes a meeting with yourself, Mr. Holthuis, and all counsel who are members of the legal team to come to an understanding acceptable to everyone on this issue instead of dealing with it on an individual basis. Frankly, we and the public are perplexed by the problems President Milosevic and his counsel have faced and still face with respect to a very simple matter; the right to counsel. Hopefully, the decision with respect to Mr. Clark applies to all other counsel, but that is very unclear.
The following are the counsel we wish to include in such a meeting which we request at the earliest opportunity:
Prof. Mikhail Kuznetzov, Attorney, Moscow
Professor of International Law, Aldo Bernardini, Rome
Prof. Bim Singh, Attorney, New Delhi
Prof. Hans Paech, Attorney, Berlin
Ramsey Clark, Attorney, New York
Dr. Ulrich Dost, Advocate, Berlin
Prof. André Tremblay, Attorney, Montreal
Mr. David Jacobs, Barrister, Toronto
Mr. Nico Stejnen, Advocat, Amsterdam
As well as myself and Attorneys Zdenko Tomanovic, Dragoslav Ognjanovic, and others as we may advise.
Christopher C. Black,
Chair, Legal Committee,
ICDSM [International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic]
Cc President Slobodan Milosevic;
His Honour Judge May, Trial Chamber III