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Kovacevic Unfit for Initial Appearance

Bosnian Serb commander, already victim of a stroke while in custody, is granted a postponement of his initial hearing in court.

The setting of a date for the first appearance of Milan Kovacevic, the first of the accused to be arrested July 10 by Stabilisation Force (SFOR) troops, has been postponed.

According to Rule 62, the initial appearance should be set "without delay", once the accused is in the custody of the Tribunal, so that he can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. After his arrival in the Detention Unit, Kovacevic underwent a medical examination, during which the doctor discovered the existence of "pathological problems which call for the accused to be placed under medical supervision." Then on July 18, the Registry issued a statement noting that "no date for the initial appearance of Milan Kovacevic will be set before the week beginning 28 July 1997, pending the outcome of various medical tests." According to the Registry, this process, which is ongoing, includes an assessment of the state of health of the accused by two Dutch medical experts.

The Government of Republika Srpska has already accused the Tribunal of "inhumane treatment" of Kovacevic, who they claim suffered a stroke July 17 and asked that he should be released or examined by Bosnian Serb doctors "because we do not believe the findings of the prison doctors will be objective and professional." The Tribunal did not react to these accusations, but the Registry, at the request of Kovacevic's defence dounsel Igor Pantelic, authorised three medical experts from Belgrade to examine the accused.

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