Friday, 16 May 2014

Praljak ordered to pay €2.8 million in legal fees

The Registry of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia assigned Tribunal-paid defence counsel to Slobodan Praljak, one of the accused in the Prlić et al. trial, from 2006 to 2013. It later determined that the accused was in a position to contribute to the cost of his defence to the tune of €6.5 million, a claim denied by the accused on the basis that his assets are not liquid and he is not in a position to dispose of them, and that some assets discovered by the Registry are owned by other persons. Last Tuesday, the Appeals Chamber rejected Praljak's claims and ordered him to reimburse the Tribunal €2,807,611.10, or to pay over €70,000 in 36 monthly instalments.

This is, to my knowledge, the first time that the Tribunal has made such an order pursuant to Rule 45(A). One accused, Limaj, was found to have raised sufficient funds to cover his pre-trial expenses and had counsel withdrawn (and later restored, when the funds independently raised had been exhausted), but no order was made to recover the money already spent on his pre-trial counsel beforehand, much to the consternation of the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services.

It will be interesting to see what happens if Praljak refuses to pay back the money. Article 11 of the ICCPR states that no-one should be imprisoned for non-payment of a fine, so it would seem unlikely that the Tribunal will order his detention to continue past his sentence until he repays the money. Rule 61 permits the Trial Chamber to order a State to freeze the assets of an accused, but this only applies where there has been a failure to execute an arrest warrant. Furthermore, Judge Thompson in the Norman case before the SCSL overturned a freezing order, finding that an accused's assets could only be frozen if there was clear and convincing evidence that they were acquired in pursuance of a crime within the jurisdiction of the court. We will have to watch this space.

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