A defence witness in the genocide and war crimes case against former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic (pictured above) has been found dead in his Hague hotel room, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal said Thursday.
Dusan Dunjic, a forensic pathologist from Belgrade, was “found dead at his hotel by a hotel staff member and a representative of the tribunal,” the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said in a statement.
“Emergency services were immediately notified and ascertained Mr Dunjic’s death,” the ICTY added.
Police spokesman Cor Spruijt told AFP an investigation had been launched, but at this stage “we have no reason to suspect that a crime had been committed.”
He declined to give further details.
Dunjic, around 65, was in The Hague to testify as a defence witness in the case against Mladic, who faces 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia’s brutal three-year civil war in the early 1990s.
More than 100,000 people died and 2.2 million others were left homeless in the 1992-1995 conflict that was sparked after the collapse of the former Yugoslavia a year earlier.
Mladic and his political alter ego Radovan Karadzic is facing similar charges before the UN tribunal, in particular for their roles in the Srebrenica massacre, the worst bloodshed on European soil since World War II.
Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in mass graves when Bosnian Serb troops under Mladic’s command overran the UN-protected enclave in eastern Bosnia in mid-1995.
Prosecutors say the pair, along with late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, tried to “cleanse” Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Bosnia’s Serb-claimed territories.
The defence case in Mladic’s trial is ongoing, with judgement expected in November 2017.
Dunjic has on numerous occasions testified as a defence witness in the trials of others accused before the tribunal, the ICTY said.
Meanwhile in a separate statement, the ICTY’s judges said Thursday they had dismissed an appeal against the provisional early release of a Bosnian Serb army security chief, Drago Nikolic, after receiving news of his death on October 11.
Nikolic was sentenced to 35 years in jail for his role in the Srebrenica massacre but was granted early release in July this year because of unspecified medical reasons.