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Tolimir to Defend Himself

By Caroline Tosh in London (TU No 515, 31-Aug-07)
By IWPR
The Hague tribunal this week announced that the former Bosnian Serb commander Zdravko Tolimir would represent himself in court.



The former assistant commander for intelligence and security of the Bosnian Serb army, VRS, was sent to the Hague on June 1 after being arrested on the border between Serbia and Republika Srpska, RS, the previous day.



Tolimir, who was a top aide of war crimes fugitive General Ratko Mladic during the war, was initially indicted in February 2005, and stands charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder and extermination.



He is accused of involvement in planning and carrying out the killings of up to 8,000 Bosniak men and boys after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995.



Tolimir filed a request on August 6 to represent himself in court, after the tribunal registry said that his choice of lawyer - Belgrade attorney Nebojsa Mrkic - did not meet the requirements for appointment as lead counsel.



On June 4 this year, the registry assigned Roger Sahota to represent Tolimir until a permanent counsel could be found.



In its notification of August 27, the registry informed the trial chamber and parties “of the accused’s election to conduct his own defence”. It also directed Sahota “to surrender all papers and case-related material received during his representation of counsel to the accused”.



However, the trial judges can reverse this decision at any point, in case of misconduct of the accused.



Last week, Tolimir complained to the court, saying that tribunal medical staff are violating his rights.



In a submission made on August 23, he said that medical staff had violated the “discretionary rights and freedoms” he has as a detained person awaiting trial at the court.



He said that on August 20, “without [his] consent and against [his] will” medical staff at the detention unit attached “electronic apparatus” to his body to enable them to monitor his blood pressure for 24 hours.



The procedure was unnecessary, he said, as he had already had his blood pressure measured, and added that during the night, the sound of the equipment woke him up every 20 minutes.



Tolimir also complained of being placed under “other pressure”. This included having diskettes requisitioned; having his written requests to observe a fast for religious reasons disregarded; and having his request for his family lawyer to visit him rejected.



He asked the trial chamber to prohibit the “unnecessary repetition of diagnostic tests”, adding that he had informed Serbian officials of the violations of his “discretionary rights guaranteed by international conventions and asked for assistance and protection”.

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