- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 4, 2007

Del Ponte’s exit

Carla Del Ponte, the silver-haired, chain-smoking, bracelet-rattling prosecutor for the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, announced last week that she would leave the Hague-based tribunal in September.

Mrs. Del Ponte, who focused throughout her two terms at the tribunal on the prosecution of the three architects of the Balkan genocide — Slobodan Milosevic, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic — may be leaving unfulfilled.

Mr. Milosevic died four years into his war-crimes trial, abruptly ending a prosecution more than a dozen years in the making. And the other two are still at large, although hardly living underground.

“I plan to step down from the chief prosecutor’s office, the post I’ve occupied for eight years,” she told correspondents at The Hague last week. “I wish to see Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic behind bars in The Hague by that time, and I’ll work on it. I hope to leave my office satisfied and not frustrated.”

Last month, Mrs. Del Ponte asked the Security Council, which created the tribunal in 1994, to extend the court’s mandate until the two generals could be prosecuted. The court is currently required to complete all initial trials by 2008 and appeals by 2010.

Taylor trial

The U.N.-created court for Sierra Leone, the Freetown-based tribunal that is trying former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor and nine other perpetrators of a disastrous civil war, will need about $33 million in voluntary contributions for its activities next year.

That’s a large bump for the purposely modest tribunal, but most of the expenses are related to the extraordinary measures for Mr. Taylor’s trial, which will be conducted in well-equipped and secure facilities in The Hague.

Mr. Taylor, already in detention in the Netherlands, is expected to go on trial in June.

Stephen Rapp, a former Iowa attorney general who serves as prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, said the proceedings should last 12 to 18 months, not counting any appeals.

Mr. Rapp said the original 16-count indictment against Mr. Taylor had been whittled down to 11 core charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, for abetting the mutilation of civilians, rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage and the use of child soldiers.

In a nutshell, the prosecutor will argue that the former Liberian dictator worked with rebel commanders to destabilize and terrorize Sierra Leone in return for diamonds. Mr. Rapp expects to call up to 133 witnesses.

Travel logistics aside, Mr. Rapp said the most difficult thing about holding the trial in the Netherlands will be keeping the Sierra Leoneans abreast of developments.

The BBC World Service Trust has pledged to underwrite coverage by revolving teams of West African journalists, whose reports will be carried on local television and radio and in publications. The court, in the past, has carted televisions into remote areas and shown what amounts to videotaped highlights reels from the proceedings.

Bahel bail hearing

And, finally, a legal update from New York.

The U.S. District Court has denied bail to Sanjaya Bahel, a former U.N. procurement officer and post office manager who has been accused of steering U.N. contracts to companies from his native India. Mr. Bahel has pleaded not guilty, but a representative of the named companies has confessed to making real estate deals with him.

Prosecutors argued against bail on the grounds that Mr. Bahel had lost his legal status in the United States when he lost his job at the United Nations.

Mr. Bahel’s attorney, Richard Herman, had proposed a bail package of more than $550,000 and lamented that “the presumption of innocence is lost” when it was denied.

Betsy Pisik can be reached at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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