- Title: NETHERLANDS/FILE: Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic commits suicide in jail
- Date: 6th March 2006
- Summary: (W3) KRAJINA REGION: NEAR GLINA, CROATIA (FILE: AUGUST 1995) (REUTERS) SERBS LEAVING ON TRACTORS WITH POSSESSIONS PILED ON TOP
- Embargoed: 21st March 2006 12:00
- Reuters ID: LVANLYIV1N3KO60B20W8X186BLQ
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Former rebel Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic has committed suicide in jail in The Hague where he was being held to testify against another top Croatian Serb, the U.N. war crimes tribunal said on Monday (March 6).
The tribunal said that Babic was found dead in his cell at the U.N. detention unit on Sunday evening (March 5).
"It is with great regret that the tribunal informs that Milan Babic who was convicted before the tribunal in 2005 and was testifying in another case was found dead in his cell. Dutch authorities conducted an investigation immediately and confirmed that the cause of death was suicide," International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) spokesperson Alexandra Milenov said.
The tribunal did not say how Babic had killed himself.
Babic, 50, was the former president of the self-declared Krajina Serb republic that broke away from Croatia after it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
U.N. prosecutors regarded him as a key ally of former Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic in a campaign to expel non-Serbs from about a third of Croatian territory and create a Serb-dominated state.
Analyst Edgar Chen, from the Coalition for International Justice, which monitors the tribunal, said Babic had been a critical witness, and his death would have an enormous impact on future cases where he would have testified.
"Babic has been one of the most key, critical, inside, high level witnesses that the prosecution has been able to produce," he said.
"We've seen him testify against Milosevic, he's of course in the middle of his cross examination with Milan Martic, and he's even testified in closed session in what I can only assume would be cases relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Krajina case so you can see that Babic has run the gamut of many cases here at the ICTY at a very high political level."
Babic surrendered to the tribunal in 2003 and pleaded guilty in 2004 to participating in a plan to forcibly and permanently remove the non-Serb population from eastern Croatia.
The crimes he admitted to included murder, deportation and unlawful imprisonment of non-Serb civilians, as well as destruction of their property.
A dentist by training, Babic fled the Krajina Serb republic when the enclave was recaptured in a Croatian offensive in 1995 called "Operation Storm". Babic had said he felt a "deep sense of shame and remorse" over his actions.
In 2004, the tribunal sentenced Babic to 13 years in prison. He was transferred to serve his sentence abroad but brought back to The Hague last month to testify in the trial of Milan Martic, another Croatian Serb who is charged with crimes against non-Serb civilians.
Babic testified against Milosevic in 2002. Milosevic, charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Balkans in the 1990s, is accused of providing Krajina Serbs with money and military support in a campaign seen as a prelude to the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None