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UN: Milosevic Remains Defiant At Tribunal Hearing

  • Jolyon Naegele

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, appearing today before the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague for a second time, called his detention a "massive violation" of his rights and challenged the court's right to try him. RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele reports that judges appeared exasperated by the prosecution's pace in gathering evidence. The prosecution justified the delay by announcing that new indictments against Milosevic would be issued in October, and later said the charges against Milosevic would be expanded to include genocide.

Prague, 30 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The jailed former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, today denounced the UN's war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Milosevic, speaking at a pretrial status conference, again rejected the legitimacy of the court much as he did during his first appearance before the tribunal in July:

"I don't see why I have to defend myself in front of false tribunal from false indictments."

Milosevic insisted that he will defend himself at the trial rather than nominate a lawyer to represent him. However, Judge Richard May today appointed a lawyer to "assist the court" by ensuring that the former Yugoslav leader receives a fair trial. May says the court-appointed lawyer will help prepare pretrial motions, cross-examine witnesses during the trial, and make objections on his behalf.

Milosevic, who was arrested by Serb authorities in April and handed over to the Hague in June, also complained about the lack of contact with his family and surveillance of his telephone conversations.

"My question is: Why am I isolated from my family? Why my family cannot visit me the same way as the others have that possibility? Why the visits of my family are monitored? Why you need monitoring of my talks with my grandson who is 2 1/2 years old? So why you are making all those acts of massive violation of my rights?"

Similarly, Milosevic demanded access to lawyers and reporters.

Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, has visited him in prison twice. He has also met with several lawyers and last week contravened tribunal rules by giving an interview to a U.S. television network. Judge May explained that obstacles to his meeting with lawyers are due to his refusal to appoint a lawyer for the trial.

Milosevic responded by denouncing the tribunal yet again:

"I'm not recognizing this tribunal. I'm considering it completely illegitimate and illegal so all those questions about counsels, about representations are out of any question. I saw in newspaper (he gets cut off mid-sentence)."

Judge Richard May interrupted Milosevic mid-sentence and turned off his microphone:

"Very well, Mr. Milosevic, there must be an end to this. Just one moment. Let me deal with the matters you've raised. The rules of the detention unit provide that there should not be communication with the press. Those are the rules and they must be followed. They don't discriminate against you. They are applied to all the accused who are in detention. As for your point of not recognizing the tribunal, you have made it and we have heard it and there is no need to repeat it."

Earlier in the hearing, chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte asked that the indictment be read to Milosevic, who in the July hearing waived his right to have the indictment read out before the court.

The indictment currently contains charges of crimes against humanity, including mass murder and deportation, and violations of the laws or customs of war. The existing indictment refers solely to the fighting in Kosovo in 1998-99.

Judge May inquired whether the indictment was complete. When told by prosecution lawyers that it would take several more months, the judge expressed exasperation with the prosecution's pace.

"In the view of the chamber, this matter should be ready for trial. The indictment was issued over two years ago. This accused has now been in custody now for two months. And the matter must be readied for trial."

Del Ponte said that the prosecution was ready now to "go to trial" with the indictments on Kosovo, but that her team was preparing indictments against Milosevic on war crimes allegedly committed during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia when Milosevic was Serbian president:

"Our preparation activity to come out with the amended indictment about Kosovo and with the other two indictments about Croatia and Bosnia -- we have a program of investigation activity and we think particularly with both new indictments -- the beginning of October."

Judge May announced the trial should begin sometime during the first two months of next year.

Shortly after the hearing, Del Ponte told CNN that in addition to the other charges Milosevic would be indicted for genocide. Genocide is the most serious war crime the tribunal can consider.

Del Ponte also said that she would seek to link the indictments for crimes in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia so that one trial -- not three -- would be held. She said that, in her opinion, the trial could start next autumn.