Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Courtside: Milosevic Trial

By Mirko Klarin in The Hague (TU No. 288, 4 - 8 November, 2002)
By IWPR

In the week that the Milosevic trial was cancelled owing to his ill-health, the warden of The Hague's detention unit, Timothy McFadden, said, "Almost all if not all detainees were healthier now than the day they came in."


Back home, many of the detainees enjoyed fried food, late nights, heavy drinking and smoking - not to mention the stress of alleged ethnic cleansing operations.


But life in the detention unit - famous for its comfortable single cells, en-suite bathrooms and attentive jailers - is in many ways a rest cure.


"They are not drinking alcohol and are living a routine life - going to sleep and rising early, taking plenty of exercise and enjoying a balanced diet - and it is a recipe for good health," he told IWPR.


McFadden described Milosevic as "very, very diligent and hard working - a man who spends a lot of time in preparation, as he decided to defend himself." He said it was no surprise that the former Serb leader was stressed as a result of conducting his own defence.


"It would be exhausting for anybody, let alone a 61-year-old, so it is understandable that he becomes exhausted from time to time and that this is manifest in physical symptoms," said McFadden.


He said that the incidence of high blood pressure in some detainees is to be expected given their age. "I would say that if you go out on the street now and took in 20 people of 55 years of age and older and took their blood pressure, that you would find that ten per cent of the readings will be high," he told IWPR.


Milosevic's health problems have caused eight weeks of delays in the nine months of his trial.


Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte filed a motion last week calling on the court to use discretionary powers to force Milosevic to take a defence lawyer to ease his work burden.


She warned that the alternative - cutting the caseload - was unacceptable as it was not enough to hear only some of the accusations facing Milosevic.


Only by going through them in their totality would the court ensure a full accounting of the alleged crimes committed over nearly a decade, she said.


Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor at the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE news agency.


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