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Dokmanovic case: prosecution denies 'kidnapping'

Tribunal Update 39: Last Week In The Hague (28 July-2 August, 1997)

Dokmanovic's defence counsel, Belgrade lawyer Toma Fila, requested that his client be freed immediately, since, as it is claimed in the motion, he was arrested "illegally", "by trickery" and was actually "kidnapped", as the members of UNTAES (the United Nations Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia) had "overstepped the powers of the mandate" on that occasion.

In a separate motion, the prosecutor is requested to hand over to the defence the material evidence that was presented in the public hearing on the "Vukovar indictment" which was held in March last year.

The prosecutor's response to the first request by the defence rejects as unjustified the claim that UNTAES had "overstepped its mandate" by taking part - together with the investigators of the Tribunal - in the execution of the arrest warrant which had been signed by one of the judges of the International War Crimes Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. On the contrary, the prosecutor claims, "With such an order in hand, UNTAES would have been in contravention of a court order had they failed to take the accused into custody."

The prosecutor also deems unfounded the claim concerning Dokmanovic's alleged "kidnapping". Measures that had been undertaken for the purpose of his arrest, the reply says, "were clearly justified, especially in light of the fact that Dokmanovic was in possession of a loaded handgun. Under these circumstances, what happened to Dokmanovic was not kidnapping, it was simply an arrest-an arrest that was carried out legally and without incident."

Responding to the second request by the defence - that it hand over material evidence presented in last year's hearing on the "Vukovar indictment" - the prosecutor did not have any objections, since that hearing, held in accordance with Rule 61, was public, and all documents and evidence presented in the hearing are already in the public domain.

On the basis of witnesses heard and evidence presented on that occasion, the Court Council concluded that there is "reasonable basis" to believe that on 20 November 1991, 260 patients were forcibly removed from Vukovar hospital, shot at the agricultural farm Ovcara, and buried in a previously prepared mass grave.

According to the assessment of the judges, the prosecution had presented an abundance of evidence on the basis of which the presence and participation of the three accused officers of the former JNA - Mrksic, Sljivancanin and Radic - is clearly established, so that the indictment against them was confirmed once again, and the international arrest warrants were issued.

It is interesting that the indictment against Dokmanovic was confirmed and "sealed" the same day - 3 April of last year - that the international arrest warrants for the above-mentioned troika were issued and sent to all UN member-states.

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