[JURIST] Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive], on trial at The Hague for genocide and war crimes [ICTY case materials], has died suddenly, according to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website]. The cause of death is not yet known. The Tribunal has issued the following statement:
Today, Saturday 11 March 2006, Slobodan Milosevic was found lifeless on his bed in his cell at the United Nations Detention Unit in Scheveningen.Milosevic was the first head of state ever to go before an international war crimes court. He had been suffering from heart problems which had delayed the proceedings [JURIST report] against him numerous times, and late last year he asked the ICTY [JURIST report] to provisionally release him for treatment in Russia, urging it in February to speed its ruling [JURIST report]. The court recently rejected the request [JURIST report], to the noted displeasure of the Russian Foreign Ministry [JURIST report]. The ruling was under appeal at the time of Milosevic's death.
The guard immediately alerted the Detention Unit Officer in command and the Medical Officer. The latter confirmed that Slobodan Milosevic was dead.
The Dutch Police and a Dutch coroner were called in and started an enquiry. A full autopsy and a toxicological examination have been ordered. Pursuant to his authority under the Tribunals Statute and Rules of Detention, the Tribunal President, Judge Fausto Pocar, has ordered a full inquiry.
Slobodan Milosevics family has been informed.
Milosevic's trial was in its fifth year [JURIST report], making it probably the longest war crimes trial on record, and was expected by most observers to conclude in the next few months. Trained as a lawyer, Milosevic had vigorously represented himself throughout, sparring frequently with judges and witnesses. Defense lawyers were later assigned to assist him but complained he would not co-operate, so much so that at one point they sought permission to withdraw. The UK judge who originally presided over Milosevic's trial, Sir Richard May, died in July 2004 [JURIST report].
Earlier this week another Serb already sentenced for war crimes by the ICTY was found dead in his cell after commiting suicide [JURIST report] at the same UN facility outside The Hague that housed Milosevic.
10:08 AM ET - Stephen Kay, the senior British barrister assigned to defend Milosevic, has told the BBC [recorded audio] that it is unlikely Milosevic committed suicide. as his recent statements to Kay and his own appeal for medical treatment indicated that he wanted to continue his defense.