New AAFS President Daniel A. Martell, PhD, on Evaluating Competency of Bosnian War Criminal

Martell PhotoOn assignment from the United Nations’ International Criminal Court in The Hague, Dr. Daniel Martell traveled to Serbia in connection with an evaluation of the competency of a Bosnian war criminal to participate in an appeal of his case.

According to the indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, war crime victims endured unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery, and inhumane treatment; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals, and professionals; the unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians; the unlawful shelling of civilians; the unlawful appropriation and plunder of real and personal property; the destruction of homes and businesses; and the destruction of places of worship. The 1995 “ethnic cleansing” and genocide in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina involved the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys by members of the Army of the Serbian Republic, and the mass expulsion of another 25,000 to 30,000 Bosnian Muslim civilians.

International criminal-legal mental health standards for competency to pursue appeals influenced the case procedural history.  Specific challenges during the assignment included:  (1) cross-cultural issues in conducting the forensic neuropsychological examination; (2) addressing reliability and validity concerns through selection of culture-free test instruments and measures; (3) issues of literal language translation; and (4) interdisciplinary consultation with experts from other countries.

Logistical issues loomed unexpectedly large. The specifics of travel (including lost luggage in Serbia), accommodations, security, and examination location, as well as coordination with international attorneys and U.N. representatives, offered recurring reminders of the need to maintain objectivity and professional neutrality in emotionally-charged circumstances.

Findings from the evaluation were reported to the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which relied on them in determining that the appellant was fit to proceed with his appeals.

Dr. Martell maintains an ongoing consulting relationship as a forensic neuropsychologist for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals and is among three PD&A experts to have worked in this capacity.