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Milosevic Illness May Complicate War Crimes Trial

The panel of judges discussed the health of the former Yugoslav strongman during a session in Milosevic’s ongoing trial.

“The medical report showed the accused as a man with a severe cardiovascular risk,” Judge Richard May told the court. “Milosevic is a man with serious cardiovascular risk which requires future monitoring.”

Citing those health concerns, May and other court officials proposed appointing an attorney to assist Milosevic to reduce his workload.

Milosevic, who has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the international tribunal, said he would continue to hold on to every chance he had to “speak the truth.”

Hoping to broker a compromise, Judge Patrick Robinson proposed the former Yugoslav leader share the burden of cross-examining hundreds of witnesses with a lawyer, but not forfeit his right to defend himself.

“That would allow you some rest,” Robinson said. “It’s a bit unusual but it has happened in some places.”

Milosevic flatly rejected the idea.

“I do not recognize this court and I have no intention of appointing a counsel for a nonexisting court,” he said. “As for my health, I never asked in these months for a single break. The fact that you ordered a medical examination and now you have a report, that’s your problem. You should not harbor any illusion that I’m asking for anything.”

Robinson responded by saying Milosevic’s health was a major concern of the court.

“Your health is of paramount concern to the chamber. The overriding concern for me is your health,” the judge told the Serb.

“The New York Times” quoted a lawyer who works with Milosevic as saying his heart condition was not new. He has taken medicine for high blood pressure while in detention in Belgrade before his arrival in The Hague just over a year ago, the lawyers said.

“In Belgrade and here, he always says he is fine,” one lawyer, Zdenko Tomanovic, who sees the former Serb leader almost every day, told the “Times”. “He takes medicine but he never complains and never wants extra care.”

According to reports, Milosevic’s systolic blood pressure is about 200, although last week it suddenly peaked above 240, sparking a two-day suspension of the case. A reading of 140 to 160 is considered normal.

Court officials have ordered a series of new tests to examine Milosevic’s heart health. Once those results are in, Judge May said the court would consider how it may alter its current prosecution schedule.