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Hunger strike by accused Serb politician prompts concern from UN war crimes tribunal

Hunger strike by accused Serb politician prompts concern from UN war crimes tribunal

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today expressed grave concern about the actions of Vojislav Šešelj, the Serbian politician who has refused food as he awaits trial on charges of taking part in an ethnic cleansing campaign during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Mr. Šešelj is being monitored in a Dutch prison hospital after he was transferred yesterday from the detention unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague, the Tribunal said in a press statement, citing concern for the accused’s well-being.

Although he continues to drink water, Mr. Šešelj has declined food, medicine and medical care since 11 November, and the ICTY said a medical necessity requiring intervention could arise in the near future if he does not start eating again.

Mr. Šešelj, 52, has refused to allow any doctor of Dutch nationality to assess his condition, but has said he will accept a doctor from France or Serbia. However, he refused to meet a French doctor who visited the Dutch prison hospital today.

The Tribunal statement said the reasons provided by Mr Šešelj for his hunger strike keep changing, ranging from his defence counsel to the ability to receive unmonitored visits from his wife.

Earlier this week, ICTY judges assigned defence counsel to the accused, saying he had persistently obstructed the proper conduct of the trial since resuming self-representation in late October.

“But he has also made other less publicized demands, such as that the Tribunal approach a foreign State in order to unfreeze assets he holds in overseas bank accounts,” the statement noted.

The president of the Serbian Radical Party, Mr. Šešelj faces charges of crimes against humanity and others relating to the persecutions of Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb people and their expulsions from area of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Vojvodina region of Serbia, between August 1991 and September 1993.

Prosecutors allege Mr. Šešelj participated in a joint criminal enterprise with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, among others, that led to the extermination and expulsion of non-Serb people.

In its statement the ICTY stressed that it is keeping officials from Serbia informed at all times, and has also invited the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit its detention unit and the Dutch prison hospital.