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COURTSIDE: Vukovar Case

Accused claims "pride" would stop him from fleeing justice
By Mirna Jancic

The former Yugoslav army general Mile Mrksic, accused of war crimes in


the Croatian town of Vukovar in November 1991, has asked the court to grant him pre-trial release.


Mrksic surrendered to the tribunal in May, after the Yugoslav parliament passed a law on cooperation with The Hague. He is charged with the murder of more than 200 men who were taken from Vukovar hospital and executed at the nearby Ovcara farm and buried in a mass grave.


The prosecution opposed the request, as his two co-accused,


Major Veselin Sljivancanin and Captain Miroslav Radic, had not been extradited by Belgrade. It said this undermined the guarantees of the federal authorities that Mrksic would return for trial, adding that the general's health problems had been exaggerated.


Mrksic has had two heart operations and claims to suffer from high blood pressure as a result of his detention. He told the court it was "up to their conscience" whether they would allow him to return to Yugoslavia.


He insisted professional "pride" ruled out any escape from the court. In addition, he said he had been at the court's disposal before his surrender, though "no one had ever looked for him" at his Belgrade home. The defence maintains Mrksic's pre-trial release would have a "positive echo" in Serbia and might encourage Sljivancanin and Radic to surrender.


Another Vukovar indictee, the town's former mayor Slavko Dokmanovic, committed suicide in the Scheveningen detention unit while awaiting his verdict in 1998.


Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.