Right from the start of his trial, Slobodan Milosevic made it clear that he would make life difficult for his prosecutors.
Milosevic's first appearance in the dock in The Hague was electric. He dominated the stage, clashing verbally with the British presiding Judge Richard May who finally cut off his microphone. But that was four years ago, and so long is it since the case opened that Judge May in fact died before Milosevic. The defendant's stubborn refusal to accept a defence counsel meant that the case was subject to delays.
Milosevic's interventions were often tirades, denouncing the court and justifying his role in the savagery that gripped the Balkans in the 1990s. Efforts to reign him in and appoint unofficial legal support failed. Milosevic simply refused to have anything to do with them. Often the trial was simply adjourned for weeks.
Had the proceedings reached an end, Milosevic would certainly not have walked free. But it remains unclear whether he would have been convicted of genocide.
The ICTY's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, will now renew her efforts to bring to justice the two other big fish at large, Radovan Karadzic, and Ratko Mladic. But the Milosevic trial must go down as a failure for the ICTY, however noble its objectives. By the way he conducted himself, Milosevic succeeded in one of his objectives. For most of the time the focus of attention was on him, not his victims.Reuse content