THE HAGUE -- The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, led by the United Nations, told Dutch authorities yesterday to feed a hunger-striking Serb nationalist leader intravenously if it becomes necessary to save his life.
However, a three-judge panel also said that moves to force-feed the leader, Vojislav Seselj, a suspect in war crimes, should be undertaken only "to the extent that such services are not contrary to compelling internationally accepted standards of medical ethics or binding rules of international law."
In a written "urgent order to the Dutch authorities," the judges said that international law on force-feeding is not uniform, but that European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence states "'force-feeding' does not constitute torture, inhuman or degrading treatment if there is a medical necessity to do so."
A Justice Ministry spokesman, Hans Janssens, said he had no comment on the order.
Serbian, French and Russian doctors approved by Seselj examined Soselj Tuesday and issued a grim prognosis.
"In the coming days we think he could have a cardiac arrest if he continues his hunger strike," Dr. Patrick Barriot said after the visit. "If he continues, he will die in the coming two weeks."
Seselj launched a hunger strike Nov. 11 over demands including unrestricted spousal visits and the right to conduct his own defense. The tribunal said last week that he also is seeking to have frozen overseas bank accounts released.