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Completion of the internal inquiry into the death of Slavko Dokmanovic.

Press Release

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

The Hague, 23 July 1998

Completion of the internal inquiry into the death of Slavko Dokmanovic.


No sign of a criminal act

Suicide of the accused is confirmed

All of the Rules of Detention have been respected

No negligent behaviour was identified

Following the tragic death of accused Slavko Dokmanovic, found dead in his cell just after midnight in the early hours of Monday 29 June 1998, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, ordered an internal inquiry "into the circumstances surrounding the death of the accused".

Acting under Rule 32 (C) of the Rules of Detention (Rules governing the detention of persons awaiting trial or appeal or otherwise detained on the authority of the International Tribunal), President McDonald designated on 30 June 1998 ICTY Judge Almiro RODRIGUES to conduct this internal inquiry.

On 21 July 1998, Judge Rodrigues presented the Vice-President, Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen, acting President in the absence of Judge McDonald, with his final report. The Vice-President ordered that the conclusions of the inquiry be made public.

Purposes of the inquiry

The purposes of the inquiry were twofold:

To look into the circumstances surrounding the death of the detainee and to establish whether any individual responsibility was involved in light of the existing Rules of Detention concerning the security and the safety of the detainees.

To determine whether amendments should be suggested in order to avoid a repetition of this tragic event

Methodology of the inquiry

Upon his appointment, Judge Almiro Rodrigues constituted a four-member strong inquiry team (one investigator, two legal assistants and one photographer) assisted by one secretary.

Judge Rodrigues invited the detainee’s Defence Counsel, Mr.Toma Fila, and the detainee’s brother, Mr. Jovan Dokmanovic, to accompany him during his initial inspection of the cell. The cell had been kept locked since the night of 29 June.

This inspection took place on 1 July. A representative of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was present.

Judge Rodrigues seized the items relevant to his investigation from the cell. Photographs were also taken in addition to those taken by the Dutch police in the night of 29 June, just after the discovery of the body of the detainee.

On 8 July, Judge Rodrigues received the official Report on the autopsy, carried out on 1st July.

In the course of his investigation, Judge Rodrigues interviewed the following persons:

Mr. Dokmanovic’s Defence Counsel, Mr. Dokamovic’s brother, the interpreter who had attended the latest discussions between the detainee and the Detention Unit’s Deputy-Commander and Medical Officer, five guards from the Detention Unit, the Detention Unit’s Commanding Officer and his Deputy, the Detention Unit’s Medical Officer.

Findings of the inquiry

The major findings (copy attached) can be summed up as follows:

The inquiry did not find any evidence of any violence either in the accused’s cell or on the accused’s body that would suggest a criminal act.

Slavko Dokmanovic was suffering from depression, was under particular medical care and was under special observation. The level of this supervision, dictated by his physical or psychological condition has varied since the accused’s arrival at the Detention Unit in June 1997. Since 23 June 1998, on the eve of the completion of his trial, the accused was being checked every half-hour during rest-time. This is one of the highest levels of supervision other than the 24-hour watch by closed circuit TV.

On the night of 28 to 29 June, between these regular checks, Slavko Dokmanovic attempted unsuccessfully twice to commit suicide: these attempts were not visible to the guards checking his cell. At a third attempt, he managed to hang himself by fastening on to the top door-hinge of his cell’s wardrobe the end of a tie which he had attached firmly around his neck.

All of the Rules of the Detention Unit concerning security and safety have been respected. No negligent behaviour was identified.

Establishment of a Working Group.

In order to ensure that all lessons are drawn from the tragic death of Slavko Dokmanovic, Judge Rodrigues is in the process of establishing a Working Group, including international experts, which will study the issue of suicides in prison and will review the preventive measures applied in various detention systems.

If necessary, the Working Group will suggest possible amendments to the existing Rules of Detention.

Biographical note of Judge Almiro RODRIGUES

Born in 1950 in Portugal, Judge Rodrigues was elected Judge at the ICTY in May 1997 and sworn in on 17 November 1997. He currently is Presiding-Judge of the Trial Chamber hearing the Aleksovski trial. As a member of Trial Chamber I he is also working on six other cases (Kordic & Cerkez;, Jelisic; Simic, Tadic & Zaric; Kos; Zigic; Kvocka & Radic). He also is a member of the Appeals Chamber in the Tadic case and the Kovacevic case.

A graduated in law and psychology, Judge Rodrigues worked extensively in the Prosecutor’s Office of Portugal. Prior to his appointment to the International Tribunal, he was Assistant Attorney General. He also taught for 13 years at the Magistrates National School of Portugal.

Judge Rodrigues is the founder and member of the executive committee of the Portuguese Association for Juvenile and Family Law, and of the executive committee of the Portuguese Infantile Emergency Institute. He is also a member of the International Association of Magistrates on Juvenile and Family law.

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