Tiphaine Dickson: ICDSM Goes On!

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by supporting the legal action to establish the responsibility for the death of President Milosevic

More about the legal action in the interview with Maitre Tiphaine Dickson below.

This legal action depends on your support!

Tiphaine Dickson is a member of the Québec Bar, practicing primarily in international criminal law. She was lead counsel in one of the first UN genocide trials before the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania. Maitre Dickson was also Legal Spokesperson of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic (ICDSM) and she currently represents Mira Markovic.


From our archive: Me Dickson at the press conference at The Hague on 14 March 2006



Maitre Dickson, you are representing the wife of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, Mira Markovic, in a legal investigation regarding the circumstances of his death in custody while he was standing trial before the ICTY. The official version is that he died of a natural cause, namely by a heart attack. What gives reason to doubt this information?


Maitre Dickson:

President Milosevic’s death in custody was a disgrace. At minimum, that shocking outcome deserved a thorough, serious, scientifically sound, and above all, independent and impartial investigation. Instead, the ICTY, which does not even explicitly guarantee the right to a trial by an independent court, assigned one of its own judges, Kevin Parker, to head an “internal inquiry”. Slobodan Milosevic died only two weeks after the ICTY Trial Chamber denied his request for provisional release, with guarantees from the Russian Federation – a permanent member of the Security Council, need it be added – for medical care at the Bakoulev Scientific Centre for Cardiovascular Surgery in Moscow.



And this ICTY report is the basis for the official cause of death?


Maitre Dickson:

Yes. This so-called “Parker Report”, in broad strokes, exonerates the ICTY, and blames President Milosevic for his death. It does so with surprising lapses in logic and shaky reasoning, but in fairness, without a truly independent investigation, and without the benefit of outside experts, perhaps not much more could have been expected.


However, President Milosevic’s family does expect, and is entitled to, a full accounting of circumstances surrounding his death, which was denied to it by the Parker Report. Marko Milosevic made plain to Mr. Parker, in an open letter drafted a year ago, that the content and conclusions of the report were “unacceptable”, and pointedly remarked that “the autopsy was conducted without the presence of the independent expert team sent by our family, even though we insisted on it”, “that the Russian doctors were denied the access to the body and the tissue samples”, and that the family was denied access to the blood samples. The family’s letter also raised persuasive objections to the legitimacy, objectivity, and propriety of the ICTY investigating itself.



So in other words the ICTY, the same institution that denied Slobodan Milosevic the needed treatment, judged the circumstances of which he died.


Maitre Dickson:

It is difficult to comprehend that not only was Slobodan Milosevic not granted the adequate medical care he had repeatedly requested, but that the cause of his death was not investigated objectively or transparently. Not even the questions put to the ICTY by the Russian Federation were adequately addressed, according to Ambassador Churkin, speaking at the 5453rd meeting of the Security Council. It is therefore impossible to accept the findings of the ICTY’s internal inquiry, since beyond defects that can be discerned in a superficial reading of the report, the panel suffers from the fatal flaw of—at the very least—the appearance of partiality. Nemo judex in sua causa. One cannot be the judge of one’s own case.


Justice and minimal decency demand full disclosure of information obtained by the “internal enquiry” to President Milosevic’s family. The findings, as they now stand, are unpersuasive, and a bereaved family is entitled to know—without institutional interests being brought to bear—the truth about their loved one’s death in custody.



In your capacity as legal spokesperson of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic (ICDSM) you have met Milosevic on several occasions in detention. You addressed the media in The Hague on the day the case was terminated due to Milosevic’s death.


Maitre Dickson:

I was, in fact, that very day scheduled to hold a press conference supporting President Milosevic’s appeal against the decision to deny him provisional release to Moscow for a number of tests and likely interventions that had been requested by specialists who had found his condition to be life-threatening in late 2005. We were very concerned about the deterioration of President Milosevic’s health, and hoped that he would rapidly receive the treatment he required to pursue his defense in The Hague, and perhaps, to save his life. Unfortunately, my attendance at The Hague on March 14th, 2006, followed his death by a few days. I could only emphasize to the press that all medical data should be made public, and expressed the hope that the Secretary-General of the United Nations would accept to waive the civil and criminal immunity of any and all UN employees and subcontractors responsible for President Milosevic’s death. It was a gruesome, shameful trip, one that was meant to support his medical provisional release, and certainly not to take stock of his death.



So if he would have been granted the therapy he may still live?


Maitre Dickson:

Permit me to put it this way: I strongly doubt that had President Milosevic been allowed to receive treatment at the Bakoulev Center in Moscow, he would have died in March 2006, as he did.



Milosevic’s family openly calls it murder.


Maitre Dickson:

Last year, Marko Milosevic expressed his outrage with the findings of the Parker Report, and made the following comment:


        “The question isn’t whether or not my father was murdered or poisoned. The point is that a former head of state, being held in UN custody, was gravely ill and constantly complaining of his medical condition. His health condition was assessed many times by medical experts as dire. He was denied adequate (if any) medical treatment, and then he died. At the same time those who denied him treatment were undeniably aware of what the consequences would be. He       asked for provisional release to receive medical treatment. Dr. Shumilina warned on November 6th (2005) that his condition was so critical that he could die at       any moment.”


He went on to state:


        “The guaranties had been granted, and the ICTY ignored all of it. Obviously deliberately for they were aware of all the facts, both general and subtle. So he died.


        The Tribunal, and everyone in charge, has committed a deliberate murder. They condemned him to death on February 24th when they rejected his request for provisional release, ignoring everything: his health condition, his rights, and the warnings of his doctors, which unlike the jail physician hired by the ICTY, had both unquestionable competence and expertise, as well as his confidence. Ignoring even the guarantees of The Russian Federation (by the explanation that those guarantees lacked credibility, it seems that the Tribunal has given itself the mandate to evaluate the credibility of even the Security Council’s permanent member states). The ruling handed down on February 24th came into effect on March 11th. That is the fact and the truth. Any other speculation is just evasive political manoeuvring. “


This is to say that all the facts about Slobodan Milosevic’s medical condition were known, and yet, with deliberation, no steps were taken to ensure that he not die. In fact, the ICTY Trial Chamber denied– in spite of unambiguous recommendations from highly reputable specialists and security guarantees from the Russian Federation– a motion to permit him to obtain the treatment he urgently required in Moscow.


What is now needed is complete and transparent disclosure of all medical evidence– including blood and tissue samples– to examine the facts without concern for institutional reputation or appearances. I am not surprised by the family’s characterization of Slobodan Milosevic’s utterly shameful death in custody as “murder”. They are well placed to know how serious his condition was, and how his attempts to obtain appropriate treatment were thwarted, leading to the most irreparable consequence: he was found dead. And as it stands there remain, despite the findings of the Parker Report, too many unanswered questions for any family in similar circumstances not to affirm that their loved one was murdered.



While the health problems of Milosevic were well known and led to several adjournments of his trial, the media often complained about Milosevic’s alleged “tactics” to “disrupt” the process when talking about his illness.


Maitre Dickson:

President Milosevic’s health problems were widely discussed, and interestingly, the facts were often twisted to suit angles adopted by the press, even when contradictions were glaring. For example, it was often alleged that President Milosevic was feigning illness when confronting “damning evidence” by the Prosecutor, and yet it was precisely when he was set to begin his own presentation of evidence that it was suggested that he was “too ill” to represent himself. Presumably, in the latter case, illness would not be a result of fear of evidence, or at least not from the standpoint of President Milosevic.


I think it important to point out how—despite undeniably serious medical issues—President Milosevic, though firmly and consistently demanding the respect of his right to adequate medical treatment, complained little, and how industriously and efficiently he worked during the entire period of his detention in The Hague. He was focused and was determined to demonstrate— as he had stated on many occasions—that there had been one war: a war against Yugoslavia. That he maintained composure and dignity throughout the proceedings only heightens the dismay that he was left to die without adequate medical treatment, and that his death was blamed on him. His family understandably refuses to accept such a shocking state of affairs, and frankly, anything called justice deserves infinitely more than what they were offered. We are determined to bring to light all the facts about this disgraceful and pointless death, for the sake of truth, and for justice, two ideas that have been perverted enough.



A shorter version of the interview was published in the German daily Junge Welt on Monday, July 16, 2007

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