Poor health becomes a tired excuse for alleged war criminals

By Calvin Palmer

Lawyers for alleged war criminal former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic attempted to halt his extradition on the grounds of ill health.

“I don’t think the trial will take place. He will not live to the start of the trial,” said Milos Saljic, Mladic’s lawyer. “I will make the appeal to prolong things a little bit, so the extradition does not take place right away.”

Mr Saljic has demanded new medical examinations for his client, aged 69, to test his mental faculties and ability to defend himself in a foreign, international tribunal.

“He is in an alarming state and needs to be examined by an independent team of experts. We think he is not able to be in court and talk about his case because of his neurological problems,” he said.

“He has had three strokes so it is a miracle he is alive anyway. He still speaks incoherently.”

The legal challenge to stop Mladic’s extradition to a UN war crimes tribunal after his arrest last Thursday was rejected today by three judges in a Belgrade court.

Bruno Vekaric, the deputy Serbian war crimes prosecutor, said that Gen. Mladic would be deported to the Netherlands “as soon as possible”.

He is charged with war crimes and genocide for atrocities carried out by troops under his command during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, indictments that include the 44-month shelling of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre.

It seems a common ploy for alleged war criminals to play the ill-health card.

Lawyers for John Demjanjuk, of Seven Hills, Ohio, tried tin 2009 to stop the extradition of the then 89-year-old to Germany to face trial as an accessory to the deaths of 29,000 inmates at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943 on the grounds of his poor health and being too frail to travel.

Surprisingly, Demjanjuk not only survived the trip to Munich but also stayed alive for his 18-month long trial during which he appeared in a wheelchair and at times a stretcher.

Demjanjuk, 91, was eventually found guilty on May 12 and sentenced to five years in prison. Judge Ralph Alt released him, pending appeal, which could take six months.

The German newspaper Bild last week published photographs of Demjanjuk walking outside the German nursing home in Bad Feilnbach, near Rosenheim, southern Germany, where he now lives under the headline, “The Bad Guy’s Miracle Recovery.”

John Demjanjuk Jr. denounced the newspaper’s “sensationalism” and said his father has always been able to walk short distances on good days and that his medical condition is well documented.

I just wish lawyers for alleged war criminals would come up with a different excuse for halting extradition. They could argue their client wants to see America’s Got Talent 2011 or, if they are really a sad case, the Wimbledon tennis championships!

And if Mladic’s lawyer is so convinced his client “will not live to the start of the trial”, perhaps he could also let us in on the winning numbers of this week’s lottery and practice under the name of Mystic Milos!

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph and Associated Press.]

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Filed under Crime, Europe, Justice, News, World War Two

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