The Šešelj Appeal Judgement: making sense of instigation 

The crux of the Prosecution’s argument on appeal is the temporal link between Šešelj’s statements [statements threatening with “rivers of blood” and using inflammatory and derogatory epithets] and the contemporaneous or subsequent commission of crimes in various locations. The Appeals Chamber considers that a reasonable trier of fact could find such a link to be tenuous in circumstances where there was a significant lapse of time between the statement and the offences, allowing for the reasonable possibility that Šešelj’s statement did not substantially contribute to the commission of the specific crimes and other factors may have influenced the conduct of the perpetrators.


Prosecutor v. Šešelj, MICT-16-99, 11 April 2018, para. 132.

Vojislav Šešelj

On 11 April 2018, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) issued the much-anticipated judgement in Šešelj. The outright acquittal by the Trial Chamber on three counts of crimes against humanity (persecution, deportation, and the other inhumane act of forcible transfer) and six of war crimes (murder, torture and cruel treatment, wanton destruction, destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion or education, plunder of public or private property), was greeted with disbelief and disdain – a shocker. How could this demagogue – whom many looked up to as a god-like figure (para. 147) and acted on his inflammatory refrains against non-Serbs – be acquitted?

Assuredly the Appeals Chamber would completely reverse – so the thinking was. Continue reading “The Šešelj Appeal Judgement: making sense of instigation “

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INTERVIEW: Prlić et al. in retrospect

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Gloria Lujanović

I was recently contacted by Gloria Lujanović, a journalist in Bosnia and Herzegovina working for Dnevnik.ba and asked whether I would be willing to answer some questions about the Prlić et al. case now that six months have passed since the appeals judgment was rendered.  Presumably she was interested in whether my views have evolved. Might my perspective (see here, here and here) be different now that I have had some distance from that fateful day when General Slobodan Praljak defiantly (I would say honorably) took his life, rather than accept what he (and others, such as myself) believed were the unjust results of a terribly flawed trial that yielded an error-riddled judgment – a judgment which, regrettably, the Appeals Chamber failed to cure? On 30 March 2018, Ms. Lujanović posted the Q&A in Dnevnik.ba: Karnavas: Alija Izetbegović je trebao na optuženičku klupu, suđenje hercegbosanskoj šestorci farsa, nalik cirkusu / Karnavas: Alija Izetbegović should have been prosecuted, the trial against the six from Herceg-Bosnia was a farce, and resembled a circus.

Here is the English version of the Q&A: Continue reading “INTERVIEW: Prlić et al. in retrospect”

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BOOK REVIEW – Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes

[T]he man who prompted the deed was more guilty that the doer, since it would not have been done if he had not planned it.


Aristotle Rhetoric (2004:26)

By and large, there is not a great deal of social science research to support the claim that hate speech or inciting speech has a directly causal relationship to violence, and this mitigates against modes of liability like instigating/inducing/soliciting which include the elements of direct causation. There is, however, extensive empirical evidence indicating that denigrating speech has (often unconscious) conditioning effects on listeners and while not attaining the level of a sine qua non, may contribute to a set of conditions jointly sufficient to cause crime.


Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes, by Richard Ashby Wilson, Cambridge University Press, 2017, Paperback $29.99, 356 pages, p. 17.

Professor Richard Ashby Wilson’s Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes is an outstanding text on a frequently misinterpreted, if not ill-used, area of international criminal law – the crime of incitement. What distinguishes Incitement on Trial from many other texts on substantive international criminal law is that it is based in part on extensive original empirical research.

Before praise and criticism, reader beware: I have known Wilson since he was doing research for his book, Writing History in International Criminal Trials (another gem published by Cambridge in 2011), and had the privilege of participating with two other colleagues in a workshop conducted by Wilson as part of his field research for this text. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW – Incitement on Trial: prosecuting international speech crimes”

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Reflections on 2017: past is prologue

In 1788, Robert Burns, Scotland’s prodigious poet who is universally loved for his simple yet penetrating versus, penned the words to Auld Lang Syne – a song usually heard the world over on New Year’s Eve. Hard to find a Scot who does not know the words to and meaning of Auld Lang Syne (or the lines to most of Bobby Burns’ poems for that matter). But in case you have ever wondered, it basically means “a long time ago,” “days gone by,” or “for old times’ sake.”

In 1788 the Robert Burns sent the poem ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to the Scots Musical Museum, indicating that it was an ancient song but that he’d been the first to record it on paper. 1https://www.scotland.org/features/the-history-and-words-of-auld-lang-syne

The poem/song is about looking back at old memories and friendships, reminding us to cling to these special moments and bonds as we are about to forge ahead into the New Year. But it is not so much about not letting go, as opposed to not forgetting – about cherishing past friendships and the past.

Caught in the moment of singing along (or trying like the devil to remember the lines we have mechanically mumbled through in previous years) as we celebrate the coming of the New Year and make our soon-to-be unkept resolutions, we tend to unconsciously ignore the biddings of Auld Lang Syne to reflect on the year passed. Imprudently, we habitually delude ourselves into thinking that looking in the rearview mirror is a superfluous indulgence that risks impeding our desire (and perhaps necessity) of letting go of the past for the sake of moving on.

With time waiting for no one, we have already started pressing into 2018. Unquestionably, 2018 promises to be an interesting year – if for no other reason than because of 2017. Hard to predict what is in store over the next 12 months, though much like examining a treasure map or a crossword puzzle, reflecting on some of the events over the past 12 months provide us with abundant clues. Not intending to present a summary of world affairs (such as The Economist, Time Magazine, and others do every December), I will merely refer to some of the events I have posted on, primarily limited to international criminal law (ICL) matters. And for anyone interested in what I have posted in 2017, here is a chronological list.  You can also check the archives section of my blog. Continue reading “Reflections on 2017: past is prologue”

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Footnotes   [ + ]

The Legacy Game: embroidering achievement while concealing failures

No sooner than an international(ized) criminal tribunal or court is established, it begins thinking of its legacy: what sort of bragging rights it can hope to claim as its contribution to the development of international criminal law and justice. This term is rarely heard in domestic settings, unless discussing some dark past in a State’s judicial affairs, such as the Inquisition or Star Chamber, or when the US Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional for the US government to intern a segment of its citizens based on race, or imprison indefinitely so-called enemy combatants on an offshore military base. The negative connotation of legacy in these situations is seen as the aberrations in the life span of a nation’s history – something to remember and learn from, and to avoid.

At the international(ized) criminal tribunals and courts, however, legacy seems to mean something else – at least to the Presidents, Prosecutors, and Registrars. To them, legacy seems to be something that reflects only the positive, the achievements, the favorable statistics: how many trials were conducted, how many convictions resulted, what positive jurisprudence was generated, and of course, why other courts should be so lucky as to have such a successful track-record. Continue reading “The Legacy Game: embroidering achievement while concealing failures”

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Karnavas Responds to John Doe’s Comment on Post: General Slobodan Praljak’s honorable defiance

I greatly appreciate that many colleagues and interested persons have taken the time to comment on my recent post:  General Slobodan Praljak’s honorable defiance.  One comment in particular, posted by “John Doe”, warrants a response.  Below the comment is reproduced, followed by my response. Continue reading “Karnavas Responds to John Doe’s Comment on Post: General Slobodan Praljak’s honorable defiance”

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General Slobodan Praljak’s honorable defiance

Ukoliko želite pročitati ovaj tekst na hrvatskom jeziku kliknite ovdje

General Slobodan Praljak

Having listened to the summary of the Appeal Judgment and having stood up to hear the litany of crimes affirmed by the Appeals Chamber before his sentence of 20 years was upheld, General Slobodan Praljak took his own life by drinking poison – but not before expressing his utter contempt for the Judgment, and by extension, his contempt for the Judges and the ICTY as a judicial institution.

Questions abound. How did General Praljak smuggle the vial of poison into the courtroom? How could he have gotten it through the numerous check-points where he would have been searched? Did he have it on him when he arrived at the ICTY? Did someone smuggle it to him there? Or, was it waiting for him at the ICTY, secretly planted in his cell or in the toilet?

Relevant as these questions are, few are asking what I think is perhaps the more important question: why did General Praljak take his life? Continue reading “General Slobodan Praljak’s honorable defiance”

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Časni prkos generala Slobodana Praljka

General Slobodan Praljak

Odslušavši sažetak presude u žalbenom postupku i ustavši da čuje litaniju zločina koje je utvrdilo Žalbeno vijeće prije nego mu je potvrđena presuda na 20 godina zatvora, general Slobodan Praljak uzeo si je vlastiti život popivši otrov – ali tek nakon što je izrazio svoj krajnji prijezir prema presudi, a dalje i prijezir prema sudcima i Međunarodnom kaznenom sudu za bivšu Jugoslaviju (MKSJ) kao sudskoj instituciji.

Sve vrvi pitanjima. Kako je general Praljak prokrijumčario bočicu s otrovom u sudnicu? Kako ju je prokrijumčario kroz brojne kontrole? Je li je imao kada je stigao na MKSJ? Je li mu je netko tamo prokrijumčario? Ili, je li ga otrov čekao na MKSJ, sakriven u njegovoj ćeliji ili u zahodu?

Kolikogod da su ova pitanja relevantna, malo ljudi postavlja pitanje koje smatram jednako važnim: zašto si je general Praljak oduzeo život? Continue reading “Časni prkos generala Slobodana Praljka”

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The Common Code of Professional Conduct: flawed and hubristic – Part I

On Friday 10 November 2017, The Fifth International Meetings of the Defence adopted the so-called Common Code of Professional Conduct for all Counsel appearing before the International Criminal Tribunals (Common Code). Aside from being a non-binding document (I hesitate to call it a code since it is nothing of the kind), it is flawed and hubristic.  Indeed, it may be that everything you need to know about the arrogance of the document and its creators can be divined from the declaration that it is to be “referred to as the 2017 Nuremberg Code.”

By happenstance, I heard that the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (ADC) was consulted on this initiative. Having a particular interest in professional responsibility and ethics, I reached out to get a copy of the Common Code.

The ADC – the first and without a doubt the most accomplished association of its kind – was not involved in the drafting of the Common Code. The ADC sent its members a copy of the “Proposed Code,” informing them that it received the draft relatively late in the process. After the ADC Executive Committee and Disciplinary Council made an initial assessment of the Proposed Code, and without circulating it to the ADC membership (for reasons that become obvious from the available correspondence and discussed below), it decided that the ADC could not sign the Proposed Code as presented. Continue reading “The Common Code of Professional Conduct: flawed and hubristic – Part I”

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Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony

Few can match Scott Turow’s writing and storytelling abilities. Very few. Over the years he spoiled us with his prose, his canny insight, his attention to detail. His freshman work, One L, was a must-read for a generation of law students. Some of the courtroom scenes in Presumed Innocent are as riveting as they are authentic. And Identical, his last novel before his recently released Testimony, was a true masterpiece, capturing all the nuances of Greek and Greek-American culture.

So, with deep regret, I suggest that if you were looking to escape (or vacate as I put it) from the daily pressures with a good novel – especially one that may hit close to home – Turow’s Testimony is not one of them.  If you have yet to set off for the beach, pull it from your bag and grab something else (perhaps the new John Grisham novel, Camino Island) desist from buying it at the airport while waiting for your flight, and refrain from gifting it to a friend or colleague. Harsh warnings, but I think justifiable. Continue reading “Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony”

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