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General Krstic's 'Health Case'

Tribunal Update 110: Last Week in The Hague (25-30 January, 1999)

Following the deaths in custody of both Slavko Dokmanovic who hanged himself and Milan Kovacevic who died of heart failure - the Tribunal is especially sensitive to accusations or allegations of the sort.

Petrusic's accusations were given wide coverage by the Yugoslav state-controlled news agency, Tanjug, one of the key pillars of President Milosevic's 'propaganda war' waged against the Tribunal. According to the report, Petrusic asserts that "a medical commission of the Tribunal examined General Krstic only after the injuries he had sustained during his arrest by SFOR had healed."

Petrusic, further alleges that those injuries "were visible to the eye on 7 December of last year, during General Krstic's initial appearance," but than an "examination was only performed 20 days later, when the bruises and swellings on the general's legs and arms had healed," and so the medical report made no mention of them.

According to Landale, "the reality is somewhat different." During his regular briefing for the Tribunal's reporters last Wednesday, Landale gave the following run-down of General Krstic's "health case": The general was taken to a local private hospital straight from the airport when he landed on 3 December last year. In hospital he had a complete medical check up, including a cardiac examination.

Only then was he transferred to the Detention Unit, where the following morning he was thoroughly examined by the in-house medical officer, who had completed the routine medical processing procedure, including a full blood test, a chest X-ray and other normal medical checks. The arrangements were then made for General Krstic to undergo a specialist medical examination by an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in treating amputees (the general's right leg was previously amputated below his knee after he slipped on snow and set off an anti-personnel mine).

The story, however, goes on. When the orthopaedic surgeon arrived, General Krstic refused to see him. As a result, Landale said, "the Tribunal was given no option, but to make it clear that they would take no responsibility for any consequences arising from this decision." This was in response to earlier claims by his counsel that there was a danger that Krstic's leg might turn gangrenous.

Finally, on 23 December 1998 a group of medical experts arrived from Belgrade and examined the general. According to Landale, the Belgrade team concluded that there was "nothing seriously wrong with his health". Subsequently, Landale was "pleased to report", that General Krstic had reconsidered his decision, and has now been examined by the orthopaedic surgeon [provided by the Tribunal].

The case of General Krstic's health has - at least as far as the Tribunal is concerned - now been closed.

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