Avoidance of a lengthy trial

Notion(s) Filing Case
Judgement on Sentencing Appeal - 04.02.2005 NIKOLIĆ Dragan

51. The avoidance of a lengthy trial has been commended, as correctly noted by the Trial Chamber, with the first admission of guilt before the International Tribunal, in the Erdemović Sentencing Judgement:

[T]his voluntary admission of guilt which has saved the International Tribunal the time and effort of a lengthy investigation and trial is to be commended.[1]

Judge Cassese, in his Separate and Dissenting Opinion to the Erdemović Appeal Judgement, addressed in detail some of the benefits of a guilty plea in terms of the International Tribunal’s resources:

It is apparent from the whole spirit of the Statute and the Rules that, by providing for a guilty plea, the draftsmen intended to enable the accused (as well as the Prosecutor) to avoid a possible lengthy trial with all the attendant difficulties. These difficulties - it bears stressing - are all the more notable in international proceedings. Here, it often proves extremely arduous and time-consuming to collect evidence. In addition, it is imperative for the relevant officials of an international court to fulfil the essential but laborious task of protecting victims and witnesses. Furthermore, international criminal proceedings are expensive, on account of the need to provide a host of facilities to the various parties concerned (simultaneous interpretation into various languages; provision of transcripts for the proceedings, again in various languages; transportation of victims and witnesses from far-away countries; provision of various forms of assistance to them during trial, etc.). Thus, by pleading guilty, the accused undoubtedly contributes to public advantage.[2]

Following Erdemović, other Trial Chambers have also noted that a guilty plea before the commencement of the trial contributes to saving International Tribunal resources.[3] Nevertheless, the Appeals Chamber emphasises that it considers that the avoidance of a lengthy trial, while an element to take into account in sentencing, should not be given undue weight.

[1] Erdemović 1998 Sentencing Judgement, para. 16.

[2] Separate and Dissenting Opinion of Judge Cassese to the Erdemović Appeal Judgement, para. 8, cited with approval at para. 80 of the Todorović Sentencing Judgement.

[3] Todorović Sentencing Judgement, para. 81. See also Sikirica Sentencing Judgement, para. 149; Plavšić  Sentencing Judgement, para. 73; Banović Sentencing Judgement, para. 68; Jokić Sentencing Judgement, para. 77.

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