In a short, contentious hearing, Milosevic told the U.N. war crimes court that it was an illegal body set up by his Western enemies “to produce false justification for the war crimes of NATO committed in Yugoslavia.”
In a show of defiance of the court, Milosevic refused to enter a plea and declined legal counsel.
“I consider this tribunal a false tribunal and the indictment a false indictment,” Milosevic said. “It is illegal, being not appointed by the U.N. General Assembly. So I have no need to appoint counsel to an illegal organ.”
According to tribunal rules, the judge then entered a plea of not guilty on Milosevic’s behalf. If Milosevic — who is a lawyer — continues to put up his own defense, the tribunal might consider assigning a counsel to represent him.
Milosevic 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. All charges relate specifically to atrocities committed in Kosovo two years ago.
Judge Richard May, the British chairman of the three-judge bench, asked Milosevic if he wanted to hear the full indictment, to which he responded, “That’s your problem.”
May did not read out loud the 32-page document charging him with crimes against humanity in Kosovo in 1999 — including the killing of hundreds of Kosovar Albanians.
Milosevic has consistently stated that he acted to save his country from Western domination, and that the international community has ignored the NATO bombings and casualties in and out of Kosovo.
The NATO bombing campaign, which lasted 78-days, forced Yugoslav troops to hand over the province of Kosovo to the U.N. and a NATO-led peacekeeping force in 1999.
Despite Milosevic’s opposition to the tribunal’s proceedings, May scheduled the next hearing in the case for the week of August 27. The trial is expected to begin in about eight months and may last two years.