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Yugoslavia: UN Court Rejects Call For Milosevic Trial In Serbia

Prague, 8 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia is rejecting calls from Belgrade for a war crimes trial in Serbia against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Hague Tribunal spokeswoman Florence Hartmann told RFE/RL today that the issue is non-negotiable and that a fair trial would be impossible because many non-Serbs who witnessed war crimes would refuse to go to Serbia to testify. "The position of the prosecutor's office is that there will be no trial in Belgrade [for Milosevic or any other senior former Yugoslav official.] I don't believe that in Belgrade it is possible to give the same conditions to everybody. And witnesses coming from the inside of the Milosevic regime, somebody testifying against Milosevic, will not get the protection they could get outside of the country. The Hague is a neutral zone," she said.

Vladan Batic, expected to become justice minister in the next Serbian government, said yesterday that Milosevic could be tried in Belgrade on the basis of the UN tribunal's indictments.

The Tribunal has indicted Milosevic and four of his top officials for war crimes. But Belgrade so far has refused to extradite them. Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is due to visit Belgrade on 22 January.