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ICTY orders force-feeding of Serb nationalist accused if needed to save life

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Wednesday mandated that Dutch officials force-feed Serb nationalist and war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder] in the event that the hunger strike [JURIST report] he has been engaged in since November 11 threatens his life. The panel nonetheless advised authorities to proceed with caution, and to use force-feeding methods only "to the extent that such services are not contrary to compelling internationally accepted standards." The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] maintains that force-feeding is permissible in the event of a medical necessity. Seselj's supporters, however, say that he will continue the hunger strike until the ICTY meets his demands, even if it results in his death. Seselj has demanded the ICTY dismiss his court-appointed lawyers, among other requests.

On Tuesday, Serbian ambassador to the Netherlands Radoslav Stojanovic told reporters after a meeting with the ICTY's president that "having in mind that this is a case of life or death for Vojislav Seselj, it would be good if the tribunal decided for Seselj to be transferred to Belgrade" for treatment. Belgrade radio B92 [official website] nonetheless reported Seselj's deputy Tomislav Nikolic as saying soon afterwards that Seselj [JURIST news archive] did not wish to be treated by any hospital, even in Belgrade. Reuters has more.

The ICTY has postponed [JURIST report] Seselj's war crimes trial because of his poor health stemming from the hunger strike. Seselj was transferred to a Dutch prison hospital [JURIST report] adjoining the tribunal's detention center [ICTY backgrounder] at Scheveningen near the Hague last week so that his medical condition could be more closely monitored. The court stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself [JURIST report] in November after he failed to appear in court. Seselj is accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) [party website, in Serbian], which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges. AP has more.

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