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Stanisic Fit to Attend Trial

Medical officer allows accused to take part in proceedings.
By Simon Jennings
A medic has declared former Serbian security chief Jovica Stanisic fit to attend proceedings in his war crimes trial at the Hague tribunal.

The former member of the Serbian state security service, DB, has repeatedly failed to attend court hearings since his return to The Hague following extensive medical treatment over the course of the last year in Belgrade. Last week, he did not attend the opening day of his trial and declined to follow proceedings from a specially arranged video conference room at the prison.

“In my opinion as a general practitioner, although his state of mind is depressed and agitated, there are no evident psychiatric reasons preventing him participating in proceedings,” Dr Michael Eekhof, the reporting medical officer, wrote in his medical report to judges hearing the case this week.

However, he said that Stanisic did not agree with his assessment of his mental condition and confirmed that judges had appointed a psychiatrist to give an expert opinion.

Stanisic has continued to suffer from the host of ailments – including back pain, colitis and depression – that brought his trial to a halt just two weeks after it started in May 2008. The defendant had declined to waive his right to be present at his trial.

Eekhof also said in his report of June 16 that Stanisic’s physical condition was better than reported last week. He said the defendant was well enough to travel to the court to take part in his trial.

“Observation has proven that Mr Stanisic has no problems getting out of bed, walking around for periods up to one hour and picking things up from the floor; nor did walking to the smoking facility and the visitor room and back pose any problems,” Eekhof said.

“On the basis of Mr Stanisic[’s] activities and unimpaired intellectual capacities during consultations, I estimate that Mr Stanisic is fit to be transported and to sit and participate in proceedings for a period of at least one hour.”

Stanisic is facing trial alongside his co-accused and former deputy Franko Simatovic.

According to the indictment, Stanisic and Simatovic are accused of committing atrocities between 1991 and 1995 that caused “the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs, principally Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina”. They are both charged with responsibility for crimes of persecution, murder, deportation and other inhumane acts.

Both men were allegedly behind several special units that committed crimes against non-Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s war in the former Yugoslavia.

The prosecution alleged in its opening statement on June 8 that the two provided support to well-trained and well-equipped Serb units in Croatia and Bosnia that had a “licence to clear lands and a licence to murder”.

Judges at the tribunal have drawn up a list of adjustments to normal trial procedures to help hearings go ahead. The case will sit only two days a week in the afternoon to allow Stanisic to undergo any necessary medical examination in the morning and the defendant will be allowed to take breaks as his medical condition requires.

The next hearing is scheduled for June 29 when prosecutors are expected to call their first witness.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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