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Stanisic, Simatovic Granted Provisional Release

Judges discount relevance of a police investigation suggesting Serbian doctors fabricate ailments to help war crimes suspects.
By Simon Jennings
Two former high-ranking Serbian officials, Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, have been granted provisional release by the tribunal’s appeals chamber, after it dismissed evidence presented by the prosecution suggesting that doctors in Serbia were falsifying medical reports.

Stanisic and Simatovic are charged with giving instructions to secret units of the Serbian state security service, which committed crimes against non-Serb civilians in Croatia and Bosnia during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

The trial has been delayed since it got under way on 28 April as Stanisic is suffering from poor health including osteoporosis, kidneystones, pouchitis and depression. On May 26, the trial chamber granted the two accused provisional release, taking into account Stanisic’s defence counsel’s argument that it would provide him with “the optimum conditions for recovery”.

The prosecution appealed against the decision, saying the release should not be granted in view of an article from the Serbian newspaper Blic and a press release issued by the country’s government stating that the interior ministry had arrested police officers, lawyers and doctors on suspicion of complicity in protecting individuals accused of war crimes.

The press release alleges that lawyers bribed police officials and doctors to provide false documents in order to help secure the release of suspects. Prosecution submitted that the case would undermine the credibility of medical reports from institutions where Stanisic would be treated.

But the appeals chamber ruled that because the newspaper article contained no evidence that Stanisic’s lawyers or doctors were in any way connected with the investigation, these matters would not be taken into account in a decision on his release.

The appeals chamber rejected the prosecution’s allegation that Stanisic was exaggerating his illness, pointing to medical reports submitted to the tribunal.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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