U.S. lawyers can defend war crimes suspects

Saturday, June 21, 2003

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The U.S. government lifted a ban on American lawyers defending war crimes suspects after talks with the Yugoslav tribunal's president, a court spokesman said Friday.

The ban, part of an executive order seeking to halt support of individuals blacklisted by Washington, had derailed two cases since it was made public earlier this week. But during talks between the Treasury Department and tribunal President Theodor Meron, guarantees were given that lawyers would not be prosecuted for their work at the tribunal, spokesman Jim Landale said.

"Authority has been given by the Treasury for U.S. attorneys to practice here at the tribunal," Landale said. "I don't think we will have any problems in this matter the future."

The executive order, which took effect May 29, outlaws providing goods, services and funds to around 200 Balkan individuals listed by the United States, including legal services to war crimes suspects on trial in The Hague. Treasury official had earlier said that if American lawyers disregarded the ban they would expose themselves to felony charges.

An American lawyer who had stopped work earlier this week, David Cunningham, was back in court Friday after he and another attorney on the same case, John Ackerman, were "granted permission to represent" their client.

There are about 20 American lawyers defending suspects at the U.N. tribunal, established in 1993 by the U.N. Security Council to prosecute individuals responsible for war crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

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