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Tribunal Orders Gen. Djukic's Release
Dying of Cancer, Bosnian Serb is Sent Home

By Ian Geoghegan

THE HAGUE, April 24 (Reuters) — The U.N. criminal tribunal for Yugoslavia on Wednesday ordered the immediate provisional release of a Bosnian Serb general who is dying of cancer, but said war crimes charges against should remain. Tribunal Judge Claude Jorda rejected a prosecution request to drop charges against General Djordje Djukic because of his rapidly deteriorating health. He said the indictment should stand, but the ailing 62-year-old should be allowed to return to his family in Belgrade.

"The trial chamber has upheld the indictment against General Djukic, but orders (his) provisional release solely on humanitarian grounds," Jorda said. "The judges are satisfied that General Djukic's medical condition is incompatible with any form of detention... It orders that he be permitted to leave The Netherlands in order to join his family," he added. Djukic has terminal pancreatic cancer and Dutch medical experts have given him only weeks to live. A tribunal spokesman said the general was receiving medical treatment in The Netherlands.

Djukic, a senior logistics officer in the Bosnian Serb army, was captured by Bosnian government forces on January 30 and later transferred into tribunal custody at Scheveningen jail near The Hague. In March he pleaded not guilty to charges of assisting the shelling of civilians during the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Jorda said Djukic's release was subject to strict conditions — he must leave his address with the tribunal; keep the tribunal updated on his medical condition and, if this improves, re-appear in The Hague to face the tribunal. Jorda also said the government of the country where Djukic resides must comply with any tribunal requests regarding the general. The judge said he rejected Prosecutor Richard Goldstone's request to drop charges on medical grounds because there was legal precedent from war crimes trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo in the aftermath of World War One.

He said similar requests to withdraw charges against a German officer, Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach, and a Japanese indictee, Osawa, were rejected then, despite their ill-health.

The tribunal — the first international body for the prosecution of war crimes since those trials in the 1940s — has indicted 57 suspects. Djukic, one of 46 Serbs charged, is one of only four suspects the tribunal has in its custody. The two most prominent indicted suspects are Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander General Ratko Mladic, both of whom remain at large.

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