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Milosevic Challenges Legality of U.N. Tribunal

Milosevic said in his pre-trial motions, ”I challenge the very legality of this court because it is not established in the basis of law.”

He argued the United Nations had no power to establish a war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The former Yugoslav leader also asserted that his arrest in Belgrade and transfer to The Hague were unlawful because it violated Serbian and Yugoslav constitutions.

He stated the tribunal considered his guilt a foregone conclusion, and accused chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte of already “proclaim[ing] my sentence and judgment” in the “parallel legal process” of the media.

Milosevic requested a response to his challenge of the tribunal’s legitimacy. Judge Richard May dismissed Milosevic’s complaints.

“Your views on this court are entirely irrelevant,” the judge stated, adding that the tribunal had already ruled on its own legality.

Milosevic will begin his opening statements on Thursday, when he is expected further challenge the court’s legitimacy while describing himself as a leader who tried to maintain the unity of his country.

A trained lawyer who has never practiced, Milosevic has chosen to represent himself at the trial.

Prosecutors wrap up opening statements

In their opening statements, prosecutors gave detailed accounts of the horrors in the former Yugoslavia over a decade of wars that left thousands dead and nearly a million people displaced.

They described reported atrocities perpetrated by Serb troops under Milosevic’s control that included throwing women down wells and burning children alive. Prosecutors also said the trial would force Milosevic to come face-to-face with his victims for the first time.

“From the beginning, the accused has attempted to persuade those who would listen that what would happen was inevitable,” stated the prosecution’s principal attorney Geoffrey Nice. “The things that happened were not inevitable. They were the results of deeds of men and, significantly, this one.”

He is charged with genocide in the 1992-95 Bosnian war as well as crimes against humanity in Croatia in 1991-92 and Kosovo in 1999.

There are 66 counts of genocide and other war crimes contained in the three indictments, all of which carry a life sentence if Milosevic is found guilty.

Milosevic is the first former head of state to be indicted before an international tribunal. It is the most high-profile case since a military tribunal tried Nazi leaders after World War II.

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