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Serbian Security Figure Fit To Stand Trial - UN

Serbian security figure fit to stand trial, UN war crimes tribunal rules

9 April 2008 - The delayed war crimes trial of two former high-level officials with the Serbian secret service will start on Monday after the United Nations tribunal set up to deal with the worst crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s ruled that one of the men is now fit to stand trial.

The trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled yesterday that Jovica Stanišić - who suffers from pouchitis, osteoporosis and kidney stones, and is being treated for deep depression - can stand trial along with his co-accused, Franko Simatović.

The illnesses had prevented Mr. Stanišić from attending court and he had also refused to sign waivers from the hearings, and led to repeated delays in recent weeks.

A majority of the ICTY trial chamber found that Mr. Stanišić's "health condition is a factor that persistently interferes with the right to a fair and expeditious trial, warranting derogation from the right to be present in court."

They added that Mr. Stanišić is not the only person on trial and that Mr. Simatović "too is entitled to a fair and expeditious trial."

The ICTY ordered that a video-conference link be set up in its detention unit to allow Mr. Stanišić to follow the proceedings and see the witnesses at all times. A telephone line with the courtroom will also be installed to allow the defendant to communicate with his lawyers.

Announcing their decision, the judges said it should not be seen as a permanent solution and Mr. Stanišić must attend court if he is able to do so.

The two defendants are accused of having directed, organized, equipped, trained, armed and financed secret units of the Serbian state security apparatus which murdered, persecuted and deported Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb civilians from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia between 1991 and 1995.

ENDS

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