…because that’s what it is.
A Dutch toxicologist said Monday he found traces of an unprescribed antibiotic in Slobodan Milosevic’s system earlier this year after the former Yugoslav leader did not respond to blood pressure medication given at the U.N. detention center.
Donald Uges said he found traces of rifampicin, an antituberculosis drug that “makes the liver extremely active” and thus breaks down other medications very quickly, possibly taking away their effectiveness.
Milosevic, 64, had a history of heart problems and high blood pressure, and took medications to treat those conditions. He was found dead in his jail cell Saturday morning of an apparent heart attack.
His ailments caused numerous delays in his four-year trial for orchestrating a decade of conflict that killed 250,000 people and tore the Yugoslav federation asunder. No verdict will be issued.
Milosevic was found dead on his prison bed Saturday morning, just hours after writing an accusatory letter alleging that a “heavy drug” had been found in his bloodstream.
The allegations in what amounted to Milosevic’s deathbed letter put the tribunal and U.N. prosecutors on the defensive about whether they had given Milosevic the medical treatment he needed and whether they had conducted the trial properly and effectively.
The tribunal said Sunday a heart attack killed Milosevic, according to preliminary findings from Dutch pathologists, who conducted a nearly eight-hour autopsy on the former Yugoslav leader.
A tribunal spokeswoman said it was too early to determine whether poison caused the heart attack, saying a final autopsy report would be released in coming days.
Before the autopsy results were available, chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said suicide could not be ruled out. Milosevic’s parents committed suicide.
Tomanovic said the ex-president feared he was being poisoned. He showed reporters a six-page letter Milosevic wrote to Russian officials Friday — the day before his death — claiming that traces of an antibiotic he had never knowingly taken were found in his blood.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday confirmed that Milosevic’s aides handed the letter to the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands on Saturday.
Tomanovic said Milosevic was “seriously concerned” he was being poisoned.
“They would like to poison me,” he quoted Milosevic as telling him.
He cited a Jan. 12 Dutch medical report which showed traces of medication used against leprosy and tuberculosis, but he said Milosevic had never knowingly taken them.
Uges, whom the tribunal asked to confirm the findings in a test in February, said he found the same antibiotic in Milosevic’s blood weeks later.
Milosevic asked the tribunal in December for permission to seek heart treatment in Moscow. That request was denied after tribunal officials expressed concern Milosevic might not return. He repeated the request last month.
Del Ponte said claims that Milosevic committed suicide or was poisoned were “just rumors” so far.
“You have the choice between normal, natural death and suicide, and of course it could be possible,” she said. “It is a possibility.”
But a Milosevic associate who said he spoke to the former Yugoslav leader Friday described Milosevic as defiant hours before his death.
“He told me, ‘Don’t you worry: They will not destroy me or break me. I shall defeat them all,’” Milorad Vucelic, a Socialist Party official, said Saturday in Belgrade.
Milosevic was the sixth war crimes suspect from the Balkans to die at The Hague. A week earlier, convicted former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, a star prosecution witness against Milosevic, killed himself in the same prison.
The timing of this is awfully fortuitous given Milosevic’s brag–not to mention the overall pattern of strange deaths at The Hague, wouldn’t you say?
And somehow, I have grave doubts that an international war crimes tribunal would have anything to gain by poisoning an accused criminal to death.
Therefore, two scenarios remain as the only plausible ones: Milosevic, hoping to make his escape by intentionally aggravating his existing illness, ended up dying by accident, OR–Milosevic intentionally committed suicide so he could die unconvicted.
Either way, his death is not natural, nor is it murder.