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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Journalist battles war crimes summons
UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague
Randal, a journalist, refuses to be called as a witness
Journalists' lives could be put in danger if they are forced to give evidence in war crimes trials, a lawyer arguing against the summoning of an American reporter has told the Hague tribunal.

War correspondents who take the witness stand risk being perceived by potential sources as an investigative arm of a judicial system

Geoffrey Robertson
Defence attorney Geoffrey Robertson was speaking at the start of an appeal by former Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal, who has been subpoenaed to give evidence at the war crimes tribunal.

But the prosecution says journalists should not be given a blanket exemption from testifying.

The result of the appeal, brought by the Washington Post, could set a precedent for other war correspondents called upon to reveal their sources.

Public interest

Mr Robertson argued that testifying could also endanger the lives of a journalist's sources and would make news gathering more difficult in war zones.

"War correspondents who take the witness stand risk being perceived by potential sources as an investigative arm of a judicial system, government or private parties," he said.

Prosecutor Joanna Korner said it was in the public interest for Mr Randal to give evidence.

He had information which "goes to the heart of the case" of ethnic cleansing against two Bosnian Serbs accused of war crimes during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict, she said.

Ms Korner said journalists could not be given a "blanket exemption" from testifying in court.

ICC precedent

In 1993, Jonathan Randal interviewed Radoslav Brdjanin, one of two Serb defendants on trial for genocide.

In his article, he quotes Mr Brdjanin, a housing administrator, defending ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats.

Mr Randal's British lawyer, Mark Stephens, says the judgment in this case will influence practice at the permanent International Criminal Court which is about to begin business.

The first chief UN war crimes prosecutor, Judge Richard Goldstone, has said that journalists should have legal protection from testifying in such cases.

Legal expert on Hague procedures John Jones
"Private individuals can be forced to testify"
See also:

02 May 02 | Northern Ireland
'Reveal sources' says inquiry
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