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Murder at the Hague?
An investigation into the alleged suicide of
Slavko Dokmanovic

Historical and Investigative Research - 14 March 2006
by Francisco Gil-White


1  |  2  |  3  |  4 

  The Washington Post weighs in


In the following report, published on June 30th (the day after Dokmanovic's death was announced), The Washington Post brought the story to new heights of creativity (emphases mine, below).

“Officials at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague concluded that the death of Slavko Dokmanovic, 48, was a suicide. He had complained of depression, they said, and on a doctor's recommendation Sunday night had been put under medication and subjected to stepped-up monitoring with his cell lights permanently switched on. Dokmanovic's 13-square-yard cell was lighted when a guard passed on a half-hourly round at 11:30 p.m., tribunal sources said. But at the midnight check, the lights were off -- deliberately short-circuited.

The suspect had been able to get the locked cell door open, and in the darkness hanged himself with an unspecified kind of cord suspended from a door hinge, the sources said.

...Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the tribunal, said the monitoring of Dokmanovic was ‘not a suicide watch.’

However, he said that in 1997 ‘for the same reasons’ Dokmanovic had been put under even closer observation that included round-the-clock video surveillance.[7]

Deconstructing the absurdities in this tale takes some work because there are so many of them, and so we have to take turns holding some of them constant while considering the others. For example, we are told that Dokmanovic unlocked his cell door.

Why would Dokmanovic do that?

According to Facts on File, the ICTY’s detention center is a “heavily-monitored high-security prison.”[8] I consulted Sergeant Walsh, of the 18th District Philadelphia Police Department, about how such a prison functions. He told me that in high-security prisons, the cell doors open out -- that is, away from the prisoner's cell. This puts the hinge knuckles outside the cell, so that prisoners cannot get to them. Therefore, Dokmanovic cannot use the hinge of his cell door to hang himself unless he first opens the door, looping the "unspecified cord" around the hinge. Apparently this is why The Washington Post 'explains' that Dokmanovic unlocked the door to his cell.

But how likely is it that Dokmanovic could do this?

Sergeant Walsh told me that the locks on cell doors in high-security prisons are not the sort of thing anybody can pick. A world-class professional burglar or locksmith would have a difficult time even if (1) he had ample time; (2) he did not fear discovery; and (3) he was on the outside of the cell.

On the outside...

As sergeant Walsh explained, in such prisons, “The doors are perfectly smooth on the inside…there is no door knob and there is no way-lock.”

It is worth pausing a moment to ponder this point: there is nothing to pick on the inside.

Even if Dokmanovic, a small-town mayor, had the skills of a world-class burglar who could pick the lock to a cell in a “heavily monitored high-security prison”; even if he could do this despite the fact that he was an especially monitored prisoner who was checked every 30 minutes; even if he could do it in under 30 minutes and still have time enough to short-circuit the light, hang himself, and suffocate to death; even...with all this, he couldn't very well pick a lock that wasn't there, could he?

So what is going on here?

Let's begin with the least damning interpretation. This would say that the tribunal authorities indeed found Dokmanovic hanging from the hinge to his cell door. When they realized that Dokmanovic could only have done this by first unlocking the door, they concluded that he unlocked it.

But, of course, if interpreting Dokmanovic's death as 'suicide' requires that he perform miracles, the Tribunal authorities should really be concluding that he was murdered. So you see the problem: they did not conclude that. And so the least damning interpretation asks us to believe the Hague Tribunal authorities are mentally retarded.

We should prefer an interpretation that does not force us to accept absurdities or to assume that the Tribunal authorities are imbeciles. And such an alternative interpretation is readily available.

Suppose the Tribunal lied when they claimed that Dokmanovic committed suicide by hanging himself on the hinge to his cell door. And suppose the Tribunal authorities did so in order to hide their complicity in Dokmanovic's murder. Like most hastily concocted lies, it wasn't very good. After telling the lie, someone realized that for the official story to be true, Dokmanovic would have to unlock his cell door in order to get to the hinge and thus hang himself. So what The Hague did was simply claim just that: Dokmanovic somehow had been able to get the locked cell door open.”

My hypothesis that the Tribunal officials are covering up a murder easily accounts for their absurd and contradictory explanations. What it doesn't account for, however, is why The Washington Post and other papers print these absurdities without the slightest bit of analysis -- nay, without the slightest bit of surprise! Why, for example, did The Washington Post not ask how Dokmanovic could possibly have picked the lock on his cell door? Why didn't they at least remark on what a spectacular feat this was? A feat worthy of Houdini.

It is clear by now that the Tribunal (and The Washington Post?) must be lying.

However, it is worth looking at the remaining details, because they are chock-full of absurdities that are, again, consistent with a hasty cover-up, rather than a straightforward reporting of the facts.

For example, notice that for the Tribunal's story to be true, it is not sufficient for Dokmanovic to have unlocked the door. In order to hang himself, he would also have to open his cell door all the way, for only then could he pass the "unspecified cord" completely around the hinge. The looping of the cord isn't easy because the opening is narrow. If you try this at home you will see the difficulties. 

According to Sergeant Walsh, there is always a guard on duty in the cellblock of a high-security prison. How can a prisoner “subjected to stepped-up monitoring” in a “heavily-monitored high-security prison” get away with opening his cell door all the way, and fiddling awkwardly to pass the "unspecified cord" around the hinge without the guard noticing? And why didn't the Post ask this question?

This is not the end of the absurdities. The Washington Post wrote that:

...on a doctor's recommendation Sunday night [Dokmanovic] had been put under medication and subjected to stepped-up monitoring with his cell lights permanently switched on.... But at the midnight check, the lights were off -- deliberately short-circuited. [my emphasis]

Walsh explained that, in a high-security prison, “any lights that would go off in the cells should be noticed immediately…[because] there is a ‘turn-key,’ who is a cell block attendant, who monitors the cells the whole time. There is always somebody in the cell block.”

So, given that Dokmanovic was, according to The Washington Post, “subjected to stepped-up monitoring with his cell lights permanently switched on,” wouldn’t the fact that his light suddenly went off be noticed -- and noticed immediately? And with alarm? After all, a short-circuit would either blow a fuse or bust a circuit breaker and cause other lights to go off as well.

And yet, the Post would have you believe that Dokmanovic first shorted the light, and then -- despite calling attention to himself in this way -- managed to commit suicide without getting noticed...

And why on earth would Dokmanovic want to short-circuit his light in the first place? The Washington Post doesn't even ask the question (the most elementary analysis is apparently not their trade). The fact is, there is simply no good reason for Dokmanovic to do this, which becomes obvious if we consider the various possibilities.

For example, imagine Dokmanovic shorting the light before he miraculously picked the nonexistent door lock. This only adds to his miracles, because it means he performed this impossible feat in darkness. Or imagine Dokmanovic shorting the light after he opened the door. As noted above, this would attract attention just at the moment when Dokmanovic needed to open the door wide, pass the "unspecified cord" over the hinge, and then shut the door again. So that doesn't work either. But if we imagine instead that Dokmanovic shorted the light after he shut the door again, this is hardly better. That would attract attention to himself when he needs a bit of time to suffocate.

There is simply no good reason for a suicidal Dokmanovic to short the light in his cell.

Liars often add novelistic details. The tidbit about short-circuiting the light generates the image of a carefully planned jail break, pulled straight out of some genre movie. The reader suspends disbelief and imagines a Dokmanovic determined to commit suicide. But liars often talk too long, and add too many details. A brief examination has made it clear that a suicidal Dokmanovic would have to be an idiot to think that shorting the light would help him commit suicide (and yet a genius to pick a high-security lock that isn't even there).

Finally, consider the prevarications of the Tribunal spokesman, Christian Chartier.

In the Associated Press story quoted earlier, we read that, “Chartier said Dokmanovic had complained to guards Sunday afternoon that he was not feeling well, and he was placed on a suicide watch.”[9] But according to The Washington Post, Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the tribunal, said the monitoring of Dokmanovic was ‘not a suicide watch.’

If Dokmanovic was murdered, then Chartier's initial claim that Dokmanovic was on suicide watch was meant to make him appear suicidal (only a plausibly suicidal person would be put on suicide watch). But perhaps then somebody pointed out that a suicide watch involves round-the-clock video surveillance, in which case how could Dokmanovic hang himself? To fix this, Chartier reversed himself, telling The Washington Post that the monitoring of Dokmanovic was ‘not a suicide watch.’

But notice that Christian Chartier again insinuated that Dokmanovic was suicidal by stating that in 1997 ‘for the same reasons’ Dokmanovic had been put under round-the-clock video surveillance. In other words, for the same reasons that brought about his death by suicide!

As with the Tribunal's other attempts to patch up their lies, this patch has problems. According to Chartier, says The Washington Post, “[Dokmanovic] had complained of depression…and on a doctor's recommendation…had been put under medication and subjected to stepped-up monitoring with his cell lights permanently switched on.”

Let's get this straight. In the past, for the same reasons” (i.e. suicidal behavior) Dokmanovic was put on 24-hour video surveillance -- also known as a suicide watch. But this time, despite becoming so depressed that he was medicated and subjected to stepped-up monitoring, he was not put on suicide watch?

That is absurd.

ğğ Continue to part 3:

Footnotes and Further Reading

[7] The Washington Post,  June 30, 1998, Tuesday, Final Edition,  A SECTION; Pg. A11,  551 words,  Serb Found Hanged in U.N. Prison; War-Crime Suspect's Death Called Suicide,  Charles Trueheart, Washington Post Foreign Service,  PARIS, June 29


[8] “Hague officials also said that an investigation would be launched into questions of how the suicide had gone undetected in the heavily monitored high-security prison, which was located in the nearby town of Scheveningen.”

SOURCE: Facts on File World News Digest,  July 2, 1998,  EUROPE ; Croatia,  Pg. 458 G3,  163 words,  War Crimes Suspect Commits Suicide;

“Red brick walls stretch around the high-security compound here, the largest prison in the Netherlands, with close to 750 inmates. Within this compound, invisible from the road, lies the modern, independent cell block, built by the Dutch government and leased to the tribunal. Last year, its budget was $3.3 million, paid for by the United Nations.”

SOURCE: The New York Times,  July 15, 2001, Sunday, Late Edition - Final,  Section 1; Page 8; Column 1; Foreign Desk,  1502 words,  Milosevic's Abode: 10 by 17 Feet but No Dungeon,  By MARLISE SIMONS,  SCHEVENINGEN, the Netherlands

[9] AP Worldstream,  June 29, 1998; Monday,  International news,  670 words,  AP Photo AMS101,  JENIFER CHAO,  THE HAGUE, Netherlands


































































































































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