Serb doctor to attend Milosevic autopsy

Former Serb leader, on trial for war crimes, was found dead in his cell.

milosevic 298 88 AP (photo credit: )
milosevic 298 88 AP
(photo credit: )
A pathologist from Serbia-Montenegro will attend the autopsy of former Serb President Slobodan Milosevic, the UN war crimes tribunal said Saturday. A senior pathologist will observe the examination at the request of Serbia's national council for cooperation with The Hague, a tribunal spokeswoman said. The autopsy will be conducted Sunday by Dutch authorities, she said. Earlier Saturday, Milosevic's brother, Borislav Milosevic, told The Associated Press the late ex-Serbian leader's family did not trust the UN tribunal to carry out the autopsy impartially. One of Milosevic's lawyers, Zdenko Tomanovic, earlier told Serbia's independent B-92 radio that he asked to have the autopsy conducted in Russia. He later told state Serbian TV that the request was rejected. Rasim Ljajic, a Serbian government official, said in Belgrade that he asked the tribunal to allow Serbian forensic experts to take part in the Milosevic autopsy. Even though the procedure will be handled by Dutch medical officials, the tribunal was required to give its permission for the outside observer from Serbia to attend. Milosevic's body was discovered between nine a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday by a guard at the UN detention center in Scheveningen, a suburb of The Hague. The autopsy will determine the time of death as well as the probable cause. The tribunal's president, Judge Fausto Pocar, ordered an inquiry, including a full autopsy and toxicological examination. Milosevic, the former Serbian leader indicted for war crimes for orchestrating the Balkan wars of the 1990s, was found dead in his prison cell near The Hague, the UN tribunal said Saturday. Milosevic, 64, was found dead in his bed at a UN prison near The Hague, the tribunal said in a statement. He appeared to have died of natural causes, a tribunal press officer said. A full autopsy and toxicological examination have been ordered, the tribunal said. "The guard immediately alerted the detention unit officer in command and the medical officer. The latter confirmed that Slobodan Milosevic was dead," the statement said. Milosevic had been on trial since February 2002, defending himself against 66 counts of crimes, including genocide, in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, proceedings repeatedly interrupted by Milosevic's poor health and chronic heart condition. The trial was recessed last week until Tuesday to await his next defense witness. Milosevic also was waiting for a court decision on his request to subpoena former US President Bill Clinton as a witness. His death comes less than a week after the star witness in his trial, former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, was found dead in the same prison. His testimony in 2002 described a political and military command structure headed by Milosevic in Belgrade that operated behind the scenes. Babic, who was serving a 13-year prison sentence, committed suicide. Milosevic's death will be a crushing blow to the tribunal and to those who were looking to establish an authoritative historical record of the Balkan wars. Though the witness testimony is on public record, history will be denied the judgment of a panel of legal experts weighing the evidence of his personal guilt and the story of his regime. "Unfortunately, he did not face justice for crimes he has committed in Kosovo as well," Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister Lufi Haziri said in Pristina. Last month the UN's highest court, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, began hearings on a claim by Bosnia that Serbia was responsible for genocide during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the first time a state has been put on trial for the worst crime of international law. Milosevic was due to complete his defense at the war crimes tribunal this summer. But during months of presenting his case, he barely touched on the Bosnian war or the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995. Instead, he focused on the 1999 war in Kosovo.