Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Unanswered Questions in Babic Pathology Report

(TU No 468, 15-Sep-06)
Babic, who was serving a 13-year sentence in the Hague tribunal’s detention unit and had become a key insider witness for the prosecution, committed suicide in his cell on March 5 this year.

The report fails to explain why the mark on his neck was narrower than the belt he reportedly used to hang himself.

Despite the discrepancy, Judge Kevin Parker, the tribunal vice-president who headed the internal inquiry into Babic's death, said the findings of his original investigation should not be changed.

On June 8, Judge Parker said that Babic had hanged himself with a leather belt and secured a plastic bag around his neck to restrict airflow to his mouth and nose. His findings noted that the width of the ligature mark was narrower than the belt used by Babic, and said that the Netherlands Forensic Institute would give “further consideration” to the possible causes.

Suggestions for the difference had included the possibility that the damaged skin dried out after death, or that embalming fluid had caused a shrinking effect.

But the September 8 report shed little light on the matter. It concluded that further analysis had failed to explain the cause, and that the experts involved in the post-mortem failed to agree on an explanation.

Judge Parker concluded by saying that he thought that no further action by the tribunal was called for.

Babic, former president of the self-proclaimed Serb entity in eastern Croatia, known as Krajina, pleaded guilty in January 2004 to murder, deportation and unlawful imprisonment of non-Serb civilians from the area.

He also agreed to give evidence in other war crimes trials before the tribunal, and at the time of his death, he was testifying against Milan Martic, another former high-level Serb official from Krajina.

He also testified against the late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died of a heart attack in the tribunal detention centre just six days after Babic.