Registrar at UN war crimes tribunal sounds alarm over health of genocide suspect

5 October 2007 –

A Bosnian Serb former army officer who is facing genocide and other war crimes charges over his role in the 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslims at Srebrenica is refusing medical treatment, putting his life in danger, the Registrar of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) warned today.

Hans Holthuis filed a submission to the Tribunal’s trial chamber calling on judges “to take all appropriate measures” to assess the health of Zdravko Tolimir, 58, and determine whether he is still capable of representing himself.

Mr. Tolimir, who served as Assistant Commander for Intelligence and Security of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb army and reported directly to the notorious chief Ratko Mladic, who remains at large, has been indicted on charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, forcible transfer and deportation.

Prosecutors allege that Mr. Tolimir has responsibility for the murder of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995, when the town was supposed to be a UN-protected area. The indictment also accuses him of making life unbearable for the civilian residents of Srebrenica and Žepa and forcing them to leave the protected areas.

Mr. Tolimir was involved in the murder of Bosnian Muslim prisoners being held in temporary locations around eastern Bosnia in 1995, the indictment states, including the summary execution of more than 1,700 men and boys by an army detachment at the Branjevo Military Farm and the Pilica Cultural Centre.

Mr. Holthuis said today that the ICTY registry had assessed Mr. Tolimir’s health to be “grave, fragile and highly alarming,” exacerbated by his refusal to cooperate with physicians, accept medical treatment or take prescribed medicines since being transferred to the Tribunal’s custody in June.

Mr. Tolimir had been on the run for two years before he was detained by authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 31 May.

He has a “significant aneurism in his brain,” Mr. Holthuis said in the submission, describing it as “an inoperable, high-risk condition which can be controlled to some extent by appropriate medications aimed at keeping the Accused’s blood pressure low.”

Mr. Tolimir also suffers from a serious heart condition, has indications of long-term high blood pressure, previously experienced heart attacks and arteriosclerosis, and “may have suffered from a small number of minor strokes.”

“There is a very real and serious risk of the Accused experiencing a life-threatening episode at any time and without warning,” Mr. Holthuis said, adding that the situation has been complicated by Mr. Tolimir’s stated plan to represent himself during the trial.

“The stresses involved in running a trial are certain to have a detrimental impact on the Accused’s medical situation,” Mr. Holthuis said.

He noted that Mr. Tolimir has given various reasons for his refusal of medical care, ranging from religious belief to an assertion that he is in good health.

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