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Milosevic Indicted for War Crimes in Balkan Wars

BY Admin  August 30, 2001 at 3:00 PM EST

The war crimes tribunal trying Milosevic ordered that he be appointed a lawyer. Milosevic, who ruled the former Yugoslavia for 13 years, refused to name a defense counsel at his first appearance before the tribunal almost two months ago.

Milosevic, who has been held in a U.N. prison in the Hague since June 28 on charges of war crimes in Kosovo, complained during a tribunal session today that he has been prevented from having contact with the media, and that his meetings with family and legal advisors have been constantly supervised by prison guards.

Milosevic refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the U.N. war crimes court, and has repeatedly refused to defend himself against what he calls illegal indictments.

He asked the British presiding judge Richard May today to explain his isolation from the press, adding that such isolation prevents him from defending himself against “lies.”

“If you are isolating me from communications with the press, then it is clear that it is completely discriminatory and you cannot even mention the idea of even-handedness in any kind of that procedure you have in mind,” Milosevic said.

Judge May, growing increasingly impatient with Milosevic’s accusations of discrimination, cut the defendant short and explained that the prison has rules barring media interviews.

In addition to the indictment for the 1999 Kosovo crimes against ethnic Albanians, Milosevic will be indicted for genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia, the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that her office plans to indict Milosevic for the Bosnia and Croatia crimes on Oct. 1. They, along with the Kosovo charges, will probably go to trial in the fall of 2002.

The Hague-based court said an appointed lawyer will not defend or represent Milosevic, but will “assist the court” by ensuring that the defendant’s interests are protected and that he gets a fair trial.

Judge May has said that a final trial date for the Kosovo indictments should be set within the first two months of 2002, and that a final pretrial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9.

For the Kosovo atrocities, Milosevic faces four counts of war crimes for the alleged suppression of ethnic Albanians, who represented 90 percent of the population. He is charged with three counts of crimes against humanity: deportation, murder, and persecution on ethnic or religious grounds; and one count of breaching the Geneva conventions on the conduct of war.

The U.S. State Department has estimated that around 10,000 Kosovar Albanians were killed by Serbian forces.

Just this week, forensic investigators uncovered at least 800 bodies from mass graves throughout Serbia. Yet despite the continued discovery of mass graves, Del Ponte says she will need more than bodies to convict Milosevic of genocide in Kosovo.