News of his death was broken by the independent Belgrade-based radio station B-92 at 12:58 p.m. Central European Time.
He died of natural courses.
Slobodan Milosevic dominated Balkan politics throughout the 1990s, and since February 2002, he has been on trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes during the 11 years of his rule.
Just six years after he became president of Yugoslavia, in May 1989, Milosevic was instrumental in initiating, continuing, or guiding conflicts in Croatia (1991) and Bosnia (1992). Many thousands died, over 8,000 of them on the site of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II, at Srebrenica. Those wars ended when the Dayton peace agreement was signed in 1995, and for a time it seemed he might be overthrown.
But he survived to win reelection in July 1997. Then, as a rebellion flared up in the predominantly ethnic-Albanian province of Kosovo, he launched a brutal crackdown. The international community reacted swiftly with sanctions and air strikes aimed at Serbia. As a result, the domestic repercussions were greater: in October 2000, Milosevic was overthrown in a revolution.
Milosevic became a test case for an international justice system eager to hold accountable some of those guilty of genocide in the Balkans and in Rwanda, but it was only in March 2001 that the new Serbian government allowed him to be brought to court. Milosevic was charged with 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. In Serbia, he was also suspected of the murder of many of his critics, including that of Ivan Stambolic, his one-time mentor and Serbian president.
In Poor Health
Slobodan Milosevic in an undated file photo (CTK)
HEART TROUBLES, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: Almost since the beginning of his trial in The Hague in February 2002, Slobodan Milosevic has been complaining of ill health. His trial has been repeatedly delayed as he sought medical treatment. As recently as February 24, the court declined Milosevic's request to travel to Russia for treatment for heart problems and elevated blood pressure, despite pledges from Moscow that Milosevic would be returned to The Hague to continue his trial on 66 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"[My health is] getting worse because of the decision that gives me no chance or adequate time to prepare my defense, and that is pretty clear," Milosevic told the court on July 5, 2004. " Because of that, I think that you have an obligation to give me adequate time."
"[The judges] have been very clear that there is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Milosevic is not fit enough to stand trial," court spokesman Jim Landale told journalists the next day. "They have decided that the time has possibly come for them to assign what is called a 'standby counsel.' That is a lawyer who would work alongside Mr. Milosevic and, were Mr. Milosevic to become ill again, be able to step in and represent his interests in court."
Of related interest:
THE COMPLETE PICTURE: An archive of RFE/RL's coverage of the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Of related interest: