Kovacevic Case

Tribunal Update 59: Last Week in The Hague (January 12-17, 1998)

Kovacevic Case

Tribunal Update 59: Last Week in The Hague (January 12-17, 1998)

Saturday, 17 January, 1998

Kovacevic, the director of Prijedor hospital, is accused of co-participation in the genocide of Prijedor's non-Serb population in the infamous camps of Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje. At the time, Kovacevic was the President of the Municipal Government, and second in command at its Crisis Headquarters, where decisions on the ethnic cleansing of the region's Muslim and Croat population were made.

The "cleansing" was extremely efficient: during 1992 and 1993, more than 50,000 Muslims and Croats were either killed or expelled.

The defence supported its request with a description of Kovacevic's poor health: they claim he has suffered two strokes, has heart problems and has suffered serious depression since his arrest last year. The defence asserted that even if provisionally released, Kovacevic would not represent a danger for witnesses and victims, offering written guarantees from Republika Srpska that the accused will be returned to The Hague for trial.

The prosecution, however, cited medical experts from the Netherlands, England, the US and Yugoslavia, who examined Kovacevic and did not find that he was psychologically incapable of being subjected to the trial, nor that he was physically unable to endure detention. On the claim of cooperation with Republika Srpska and its President Biljana Plavsic, the prosecution reminded the judges that none of the 48 accused believed to be on the territory has yet been extradited.

The prosecution also recalled the Tribunal's rules of procedure, according to which detention is a rule and provisional release an exception which may be granted only in "exceptional circumstance".

Concluding that such circumstances do not exist in Kovacevic's case, the Trial Chamber II-bis rejected the defence's request.

As four trials are taking place alternately in the only existing courtroom of the Tribunal, the beginning of the trial of Kovacevic will depend on the speed at which works on the new second courtoom are completed. This could become operative in May this year.

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