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Yugoslavia: Milosevic to Have One Trial For Balkan Crimes

The Hague, 1 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The UN war crimes tribunal says that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is to have a single trial for atrocities committed in the Balkans. Spokesman Christian Chartier today said Milosevic's trial for war crimes committed in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia will begin on 12 February.

The ruling was made by the court's appeals chamber, overturning a previous decision to hold separate proceedings for Kosovo and another one for Bosnian and Croatia.

An appellate bench of the tribunal agreed to the single trial -- as requested by the prosecution -- allowing key witnesses to appear only once rather than be recalled for several trials.

The appeals chamber found that the trial chamber "misdirected itself" by refusing the prosecution request and erred in interpreting a tribunal rule that allows for different charges to be heard in a joint trial, the AP reported.

A tribunal statment said that the decision was unanimous among the five-member panel, headed by French Judge Claude Jorda. The court said the trial will begin as scheduled on 12 February "unless the trial chamber decides otherwise."

The appeals judges also ruled that prosecutors must be ready to proceed with the Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina indictments on 1 July and present a list of witnesses and in a pretrial brief before April. Prosecutors have said they will call as many as 30 political "insiders" to testify against him during the trial and link him to various war atrocities committed during his reign.

The former Yugoslav president still refuses to appoint a defense attorney, dismisses the Hague court as lacking legitimacy, and says the charges against him are "absurd."

Milosevic ruled over nearly a decade of war in the former Yugoslavia before he was swept from power in October 2000. He was arrested by Serbian authorities in April 2001 on charges of abuse of power. He was transferred to international officials in June and immediately taken to The Hague.

He is charged in Kosovo with the deaths of nearly 900 Kosovar Albanians, the deportations of 800,000, and the sexual assaults alleged to have been committed by Yugoslav army troops under his command.

Milosevic is facing a total of 66 counts of crimes against humanity, genocide, and violating the laws of war.