Tolimir Complains of Sleep Deprivation

Accused claims guards’ monitoring of his medical condition amounts to “torture”.

Tolimir Complains of Sleep Deprivation

Accused claims guards’ monitoring of his medical condition amounts to “torture”.

Saturday, 24 October, 2009
Zdravko Tolimir, former assistant commander for intelligence and security of the Bosnian Serb army, this week complained of sleep deprivation, as judges announced his trial would begin in December.



Tolimir was the assistant commander for intelligence and security of the main staff of the Bosnian Serb army during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and is charged with genocide and other crimes in relation to the execution of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in July 1995.



Judge Kimberly Prost said that she predicted the status conference on October 22 would be the last of its kind before the pre-trial conference on December 16. The Office of the Prosecution’s opening statement will begin the following day.



Judge Prost told Tolimir, who is representing himself in court, that he would be welcome to make an opening statement at the trial if he chose to do so.



The judge added that the chamber would allow Tolimir to defer his statement until the court reconvened in January after the court holiday, in light of a motion Tolimir filed on October 19.



Tolimir had expressed concern at changes in the pre-trial bench, with the removal of judges Christoph Flügge, O-G Kwon, and Antoine Kesia-Mbe Minuda and questioned the issues of timing and preparation for the case given these adjustments.



“Arrangements have been made so that this will not affect the pre-trial work,” Judge Prost told the court, adding that all pending motions have been filed and that the chamber expects to deliver decisions on the motions prior to the commencement of the trial.



Tolimir also raised the issue of funding for his case. He said that he wished to have all court documents submitted to him in his own language, as he could not pay for associates and advisors with the funds allotted to him, let alone a translator.



“I have already asked the registry for additional funds to finance my defence team,” Tolimir told Judge Prost. He said that he needed funds to pay for two legal advisors, a case manager, and an investigator.



“From this cell, I cannot investigate on the ground,” Tolimir said.



Judge Prost responded that the matter was in the hands of the registry, and that the chamber will wait and see what action is taken. She promised to convey to them that the funding issue was an “urgent matter”.



Judge Prost moved on to the conditions of Tolimir’s detention, and the filed submissions on July 16 addressing the interruption of the defendant’s sleep.



A submission annex on August 12 included a specialist’s report on Tolimir’s current medical condition, detailing his high blood pressure, cerebral ischemia and cardiomyopathy. Guards at the detention centre have been waking Tolimir at 30-minute intervals throughout the night to monitor his health.



The neurologist reported that continued monitoring throughout the night would be unnecessary with proper prescribed medication and careful monitoring of Tolimir’s blood pressure, the judge said.



“If those factors were met then the doctor would recommend a normal system of observation,” Judge Prost said. The chamber has reviewed the medical reports very carefully, she added.



“The trial chamber is going to place this matter in your hands, Mr Tolimir,” the judge said. She told the accused that if he were prepared to cooperate with the detention centre medical staff, the chamber would place a request to the registry for a normal system of observation that would not require observations every half-hour.



“The trial chamber remains very concerned about your health and medical condition and we feel as well that you should be guided similarly by those medical recommendations,” Judge Prost told the court.



Tolimir responded that he felt the court had violated the Geneva conventions by having inflicted “grave bodily harm” on him.



“Deprivation of sleep counts as torture,” Tolimir told the judges, adding that the deprivation had lasted for more than two years. “Acts of torture and demeaning behaviour… are considered a violation of human rights. It leads to a deterioration of my health.



“I have to stress that I always cooperated with the doctors,” Tolimir added, questioning the court’s handling of his medical situation. “I don’t need compromise solutions, just sleep.”



Julia Hawes is an IWPR reporter in the Hague.
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