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Hague War Crimes Court Halts Trial Of Ill Croatian Serb Leader Hadzic

Goran Hadzic is charged with 14 war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1991-95 war in Croatia.

United Nations judges ordered an "indefinite" halt in the war-crimes trial of Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic, who is terminally ill with brain cancer.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in a majority ruling released on April 5 found that Hadzic, 57, "is currently unfit to stand trial."

Hadzic was charged with 14 war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1991-95 war in Croatia, including the murder of civilians taken from Vukovar hospital in 1991.

He also is charged with responsibility for the massacre of Croat civilians who were forced to walk into a minefield in the Croatian town of Lovas in October 1991.

The court has indicted 161 people involved in the brutal Balkans wars, and Hadzic was the last of a string of defendants to be prosecuted.

The court said UN medical reports showed "a recent and marked deterioration in Hadzic's ability to communicate."

Recently, a new lesion was found in his brain which was likely to impair his functioning "from week to week," so Hadzic is "no longer able to effectively exercise his fair trial rights, even with the assistance of counsel," the court said.

Hadzic was released in April 2015 so he could go to Serbia for treatment, and he has lived at his home in Novi Sad since then.

Hadzic wanted to create a Serb-dominated state out of a splintering Yugoslavia. He is accused of "cleansing" non-Serbs from about one-third of Croatia through a campaign of murders, unlawful jailings, beatings, deportations, and forcible transfers.

Dissenting Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua disagreed with the majority of judges who ordered a halt in the trial, saying that a judgment should have been returned as soon as possible.

"Even a person who is in the final stages of his/her life is also entitled to a judgment...even if there is no hope of him/her serving a prison sentence," he wrote.

The ruling on Hadzic comes within days of the court's March 24 decision finding former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of genocide, for which Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail.

A week later, ultranationalist Serb leader Vojislav Seselj was acquitted of all charges in a controversial decision that saw him declared a "free man."

With reporting by AFP and Magyar Szo online
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