Defiant Milosevic to face genocide charges

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Slobodan Milosevic is to face a charge of genocide in connection with massacres in Bosnia.

The chief prosecutor to the UN war crimes tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, expects to file new indictments against the former Yugoslav president for crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia in the early 1990s.

Those indictments would be combined with charges of crimes against humanity in the alleged suppression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999, and could go to trial in the autumn of 2002.

It was announced at a preliminary tribunal hearing today that the tribunal will appoint a lawyer to assist Milosevic, although the former president insisted he would represent himself.

Milosevic repeated his refusal to recognize the legality of the UN tribunal, and said there was no need to defend himself against an illegal indictment. He was accused of four counts of war crimes in Kosovo in 1999.

Presiding Judge Richard May repeatedly sparred with Milosevic at today's hearing, cutting him off when he tried to raise political points and adjourning the hearing while Milosevic was still speaking.

May said the appointed lawyer would not represent Milosevic, but would "assist the court" by ensuring that the defendant's interests were protected and that he gets a fair trial.

Milosevic advised the court last Friday that he continued to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the "so-called tribunal" and would not appoint an attorney to represent him.

The tasks of the appointed lawyer, or "friend of the court," would be to help prepare pretrial motions, to cross-examine witnesses during the trial and to make objections on his behalf, May said.

Milosevic complained to the three-judge panel about his detention conditions and the monitoring of his meetings with his family and lawyers who were advising him.

"I am discriminated against all the time, from the first day I got in," Milosevic said. "Why you need monitoring of my talks with my grandson, who is 2 1/2 years old?"

May said prison guards were following the same rules for the ousted Yugoslav leader as for the other 45 detainees, and that he cannot have private meetings with lawyers because he had not appointed defense counsel.

Milosevic also protested that he was being barred from contacting the media to counteract what he called "all that machinery you represent."

He said, "Nobody has to be afraid of the truth." May responded that media interviews were against prison rules.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said she intended to file new indictments against Milosevic for alleged crimes in Bosnia and Croatia in the early 1990s. She said those indictments would be ready in October, and that the Kosovo indictment would be amended and finalized a few weeks later.

May set a rough timetable for the Kosovo trial, which he said should formally begin within the first two months of next year. Another hearing on the status of the trial preparations will be held October 29, and trial briefs must be filed by November 26, he said. A final pretrial hearing was scheduled for January 9, 2002.

Milosevic has refused to cooperate with the panel since he was extradited to the Hague on June 28.

In the former Yugoslavia this week, forensic investigators continued to exhume bodies from mass graves, gruesome evidence they say will help convict Milosevic of crimes against humanity.

Investigators revealed at least four common burial sites across Serbia - graves that contain the tangled remains of at least 800 victims of a brutal 1998-99 crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Thursday's hearing was a routine meeting called a status conference, part of every case to come before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. They are usually brief sessions to discuss scheduling and evaluate progress.

Milosevic was arrested last April by Serbian police on charges of corruption and abuse of power during his 13 years as Yugoslavia's president. Belgrade agreed to demands by the U.N. tribunal that he first face international war crimes charges and surrendered him to The Hague June 28.

At his first appearance, Milosevic refused to cooperate. The judge cut off his microphone several times and reminded him the tribunal was not the place for political speeches.

In a letter to the court's registry dated August 24, Milosevic argued he should be immediately released from prison, where he says he is being held illegally by the "so-called tribunal."

During his two months in detention, Milosevic has been visited by several lawyers, including former U.S. attorney Ramsey Clark, and twice by his wife Mirjana Markovic.

In recent weeks, Milosevic was allowed to mingle with other war crimes suspects at the U.N. detention unit after more than a month of isolation. He is said to play cards with fellow inmates and spend much of his time reading.