Jezik / Language:
19 September 2014

Courts Can Only Punish ‘Clear Rejection to Testify’

Marija Tausan BIRN BiH Sarajevo
The Bosnian law states that only witnesses who clearly say that they will not be testifying can be fined or detained, while those witnesses who come to the courtroom, but refuse to answer questions, cannot be sanctioned.
The Bosnian State court last week for the first time in a war crimes case fined a witness 10,000 euros because he didn’t want to testify, but, as the Trial chamber said, he did not have a “valid reason”.
According to the Public information office of the Bosnian court, after a Chamber decides to sanction a witness, he can be recalled and explained that if he persists with his rejection, he can be detained for up to 90 days.
After that, the Court explains, his statement form the investigation phase can be read.
“Finally, a witness who paid a fine and spent 90 days in prison can still refuse to testify, because those are all the measures that can force him to take the stand. If he still fails to do so then all that can be done is that his statement can be read," said the Court in a statement.
It is common in war crimes cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina that witnesses avoid to answer questions, repeating that they “don’t know”, “cannot remember”, and so on.
Lawyer Drazen Zubak believes that in situations where it is clear that a witness is refusing to give answers, he should be treated as a witness refusing to testify.
“He must remember something. No one would call him to take the stand for no reason… This should be treated on a case to case basis as it cannot be generally treated… If a person comes to court but it is as if he did not, that I believe that his actions are the same as those of a person refusing to take the stand at all," said Zubak.
Lawyer Lejla Covic says that in some cases witnesses who avoid even the most general questions, could be tried for giving false testimony.
“The law is such that only witnesses who explicitly refuse to testify can be punished. Other witnesses, who don’t give answers, cannot be treated in this way, because it is difficult to check if he is telling the truth. If a witness claims he cannot remember, the only thing that can be done is to prove – through other witnesses – that he has knowledge about this event and then he can be tried for giving false testimony," said Covic.
In war crimes cases before the Bosnian state court, when witnesses repeat that they have no knowledge or cannot remember anything, Trial chambers remind witnesses they have taken an oath to tell the truth, but they are never fined.

Related Articles

comments powered by Disqus