Karadzic faces some Dutch pragmatism

Karadzic faces some Dutch pragmatism

4th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Alphons Orie, the pragmatic Dutch judge whom Radovan Karadžic faces. By Rachel Levy.Karadžic

Radovan Karadzic in 1994Dutch-born Alphons Orie, before whom Radovan Karadžic  will appear in court on Thursday for his initial hearing, is known as the judge who changed the character of court sessions at the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

"Orie proposed many pragmatic solutions to speed up procedures," award-winning legal journalist Heikelien Verrijn Stuart, also Dutch, said during an exclusive interview and profile aired on Dutch radio show EO De Ochtenden on July 14.

"For example, he began to question witnesses on his own initiative. This is common in Dutch courtrooms but unknown in the Anglo-Saxon system of common law that reigns at the ICTY," Verrijn Stuart said.

She added: "Orie played a very important role in making the ICTY work more efficiently."

Orie, 60, confirmed during the same interview: "To some extent I am bringing my Dutch legal pragmatism with me to court.

"If parties keep dragging issues or beat about the bush, I sometimes stop them and force them to focus on the essence. It is important for me to speed up procedures whenever possible."

Of all 32 permanent judges at the ICTY court, Orie is the only Dutchman.

First appointed in 2001 and re-elected to the court in 2005, he sat on the bench at many ICTY trials in the past years. Currently, he is presiding judge in the trial of Ante Gotovina, until recently one of Croatia's most important fugitives.

In 2006, Orie sentenced Momcilo Krajisnik, former assistant of Radovan Karadžic, to 27 years imprisonment.

Orie began his career at the ICTY as a lawyer, working in the defence team for Bosnian Serb Dusko Tadic, the first suspect to be tried in The Hague in 1997 after his arrest in 1995.

"Today, small war criminals like Tadic would never be tried in The Hague," Orie said during the radio interview. "The ICTY would refer his case back to a local, national court."

Orie, who said he considers his 150,000 euro (233,820 dollars) salary to be "very nice", is known for balancing empathy with great professionalism in his work.

Asked whether he feels personally touched by the many atrocities he has heard of during the ICTY-trials he functioned at, Orie said: "human suffering remains a serious matter, regardless if only one or many people are affected by it."

"I do not have the illusion that international tribunals like the ICTY will stop others from committing crimes," he added.

"At best, it may deter regimes or people a little. However, the goal of a court of justice is not to prevent future crimes, but to bring justice to people who may have committed crimes in the past."

Orie began his legal career in the academic world, teaching at the criminal law department of the Royal University of Leiden and serving as a court clerk in local court of The Hague.

Between 1980 and 1997 he worked as a criminal law attorney in one of the Netherlands' top firms. He was then appointed to the Hoge Raad or Dutch Supreme Court, where he worked until his appointment at the ICTY in 2001.

Orie's term at the ICTY is due to end in 2009. During the mid-July radio interview he said he expected his term to be extended until the ICTY closes.

Whether the original closing date of 2010 will still be met is uncertain, now that Radovan Karadžic is also standing trial.


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