Portugal’s prison services directorate has given no details of the “progressive and irreversible” disease that claimed the life on Sunday of Mile Mrkšić – the former Serbian military commander serving a 20-year sentence in Monsanto high-security jail for war crimes. Nor has it explained anything of the drama playing out behind the scenes. Instead, all that was broadcast by most news sources was that Mrkšić died in a public hospital and that he had been convicted by a war crimes tribunal in 2007 for his part in the torture and massacre of over 200 Croatian prisoners of war in 1991.
Serbian news portal b92 added flesh to the bones of Monday’s announcement, explaining that Mrkšić’s daughter had written an open letter to Serbia’s national media claiming her father was a victim of neglect in Portugal and that he could “die at any moment”.
Mrkšić’s case was to be taken up by deputy prime minister Rasim Ljajic who was expected to call for the former commander’s “immediate release” for medical treatment in Serbia.
Instead, Mrkšić died the day before Ljajic’s intervention – we are still not told in which public hospital.
The 68-year-old former army commander was sentenced by the Hague war crimes tribunal which chose Portugal in 2012 as the place for him to serve the remainder of his sentence.
It was in July that Mrkšić was admitted to hospital with asthma and physical exhaustion, at which point b92 claims doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer.