Prosecutors challenge the Trial Chamber’s decision granting Vojislav Seselj’s motion claiming that the Tribunal lacks territorial jurisdiction in Vojvodina since there was no "armed conflict" there.
Prosecutors filed an appeal against the Trial Chamber’s decision ordering them to remove "ambiguities" from the indictment against Vojislav Seselj over whether a state of armed conflict existed in Vojvodina at the time the alleged crimes against Croats were committed. A state of armed conflict is a prerequisite for an offence – in this case the expulsion of Croats from the village of Hrtkovci in Vojvodina – to be qualified as a crime against humanity.
In the prosecution’s submission, the Trial Chamber interpreted the term "armed conflict" in its narrow sense of the actual existence of "fighting" or "violence" instead of the broader legal concept of "the state of armed conflict" that has been accepted in the Tribunal’s jurisprudence. Quoting relevant Appeals Chamber decisions, the prosecution notes that the Trial Chamber erroneously concluded that the Tribunal would have jurisdiction over crimes against humanity in Vojvodina only if, at the time of their commission, there was an "armed conflict" in Vojvodina itself. In the view of prosecutors, the phrase "committed in an armed conflict" in Article 5 of the Tribunal’s statute "simply means that (these crimes) were committed in the course of a period of hostilities in the territory of the former Yugoslavia." Alternatively, the prosecution notes, the phrase could mean that "the crimes were committed in the territory of a party to the conflict at the time of the hostilities."
The Appeals Chamber is urged to clarify the correct interpretation of the phrase "committed in an armed conflict" and to void the Trial Chamber’s disputed decision.
A panel of three judges of the Appeals Chamber will first rule on the admissibility of the prosecution’s appeal. If it decides the appeal is admissible, it will be considered by the full Appeals Chamber, i.e., a bench of five judges.