Prosecutors will not reopen investigation into death in U.N. custody of senior Croatian Serb
Associated Press Worldstream - September 14, 2006 Thursday 11:39 AM GMT

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press Writer

THE HAGUE Netherlands - Dutch forensic experts can't explain why a mark on the neck of wartime Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic was not as wide as the belt he used to hang himself in his U.N. cell, but prosecutors say they have no plans to reopen investigations into his death.

In a supplementary report into Babic's suicide obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Judge Kevin Parker said there would be no new Dutch probe, and said in his opinion the U.N. war crimes tribunal also did not need to take further action in Babic's death.

Babic was found March 5 hanging by his belt in a cell of the U.N. detention unit with a plastic garbage bin liner over his head. An autopsy ruled he also suffered a heart attack. It was not clear if the heart attack or hanging killed him.

In an earlier report published in June, Parker concluded that no criminal activity led to Babic's death. The judge also published a suicide note Babic wrote to his wife found tucked into the cover of his Bible.

"Find peace for yourself and don't mourn me. I need peace," Babic wrote before signing "Your Milan" followed by the date and the words: "Let the God forgive me."

Parker said in his June report that no one, including Babic's family, his attorneys and U.N. staff, had noticed signs suggesting he might take his life.

In a report requested by Dutch prosecutors in The Hague, the Netherlands Forensic Institute said it was "exceptionally uncommon" that a mark left on Babic's neck was narrower than his belt but added, "it is not considered to be completely impossible."

Generally in a hanging, they would expect the mark to be roughly the same width or slightly wider than the belt.

They said one possible explanation was the treatment of the corpse to ensure it did not decompose too quickly.

The report said products such as embalming fluid could cause the skin to shrink, and it wasn't clear whether the damaged skin on Babic's neck had been treated with such a product "to prevent the onset of decay."

At the time of his death, Babic was serving a 13-year prison sentence after striking a plea agreement with tribunal prosecutors in which he promised to cooperate in other trials. He had been summoned back from a prison outside the Netherlands, and had been testifying for several weeks before he took his life.

Babic's death came just a week before former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in the same detention unit, sparking theories in Serbia they may somehow have been killed.

Milosevic's widow Mirjana Markovic said her husband was "killed by The Hague tribunal." Authorities ruled he died of a heart attack. Other theories at the time of Milosevic's death were that he was poisoned or deliberately took unprescribed medication in an effort to be transferred to Russia for treatment.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press
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