COURTSIDE: Visegrad Trial

Vasiljevic defence suggest that he was suffering from a psychiatric disorder

COURTSIDE: Visegrad Trial

Vasiljevic defence suggest that he was suffering from a psychiatric disorder

Saturday, 1 December, 2001

The defence in the trial of Mitar Vasiljevic, accused of involvement in crimes against Bosniak civilians in Visegrad, including the burning alive of 65 people on June 14, 1992, last week summoned witnesses to testify that the accused spent time in hospital in Uzice, eastern Serbia.

The aim was to support defence claims that Vasiljevic could not be held responsible for his actions.

Three doctors and two nurses from a hospital in Uzice testified that Vasiljevic had spent time there in June and July 1992. He was transferred to the hospital from nearby Visegrad after he broke his leg on June 14,1992.

It is not the nature of the injury but the time and location that are under dispute. The defence maintains Vasiljevic was injured himself falling from a horse on the afternoon of June 14, several hours before the atrocity in Visegrad's Pionirska street.

The prosecution claims the accident occurred that night, after the arson attack, when he slipped while chasing Bosniaks who were trying to escape from the inferno. They say he took part in setting the buildings ablaze with Milan and Sredoje Lukic, who are also indicted but still at large, most probably in Serbia.

Although he is not abandoning his main line of defence, to do with his riding accident, Vasiljevic's lawyers are also trying to prove that their client was unaccountable for his actions in the summer 1992.

The Uzice doctors and nurses last week agreed that Vasiljevic's behavior in hospital had been "strange" and that he sang out loud in the middle of the night and cursed and physically attacked a Muslim patient with whom he shared the room. They said they had to transfer him to a psychiatric ward as a result.

The defence produced a doctor's assessment from that time which said the former waiter displayed symptoms of an "acute disorder of psychotic character". The medical witnesses said these disorders were not caused by alcoholism or stress because of the crimes he had witnessed, but could have been initiated by them.

Counsel for the accused, Vladimir Domazet, added that a psychiatrist who recently examined Vasilijevic had disclosed to him that the defendant's mother also suffered from psychosis and had committed suicide. The trial chamber, however, refused to explore the issue further until it had received a complete psychiatric report on the accused, expected next week.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor for the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

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