Yugoslav UN prosecutor urges end to Croat Serb leader's trial

19th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

UN war crimes prosecutors Thursday called for the trial of Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic to be abandoned as he battles the advanced stages of terminal brain cancer.

Hadzic, 57, has been charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia with 14 war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1991-95 war in Croatia.

The accusations include the murder of civilians taken from Vukovar hospital in 1991 in one of the conflict's darkest episodes.

His trial opened in October 2012, following his arrest in Serbia in 2011 after seven years on the run.

But Hadzic, who denied all the charges, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in November 2014, with doctors saying he had at best another two years to live.

He was released provisionally in April 2015 and allowed to return to northern Serbia for treatment, and has lived at his home in Novi Sad since then.

Last month the ICTY judges ordered that his trial should be indefinitely halted as he was found to be unfit to continue with the hearings.

But chief ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz on Thursday filed a motion to abandon the trial.

"As there is no real prospect of resuming the trial... the prosecution sees no alternative but to move for a formal termination of the proceedings in this case," Brammertz wrote.

A ruling by judges last month that Hadzic could also have contact with some defence witnesses "eliminates any possibility that the proceedings could resume in the future without compromised integrity".

With the ICTY preparing to wind down having indicted 161 people for the brutal Balkans wars, Hadzic's trial was the last to open at the court based in The Hague.

Meanwhile, former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, once the court's most wanted fugitive, demanded a mistrial on Thursday.

Defence lawyers argued that his right to a fair judgement had been compromised after his former cohort Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail in March.

A verdict against Mladic, whose trial is ongoing after opening in May 2012, is expected next year.

But his defence team argued Thursday that as some of the staff who had worked on Karadzic's trial had now shifted onto Mladic's case, his "rights to a fair trial and presumption of innocence have been compromised."

© 2016 AFP

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