Yugoslav tribunal confirms genocide charges against Slobodan Milosevic

Friday, November 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ The U.N. war crimes tribunal has agreed to hear charges against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of genocide and other atrocities during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Milosevic, who led Yugoslavia through four Balkan wars in the 1990s, had already been charged for alleged war crimes in Kosovo and Croatia. But the Bosnia indictment was the first to include genocide, the most serious crime in the tribunal's statute.

Tribunal judge Richard May confirmed the Bosnia indictment Thursday, submitted by prosecutors Nov. 12 after years of preparation, said prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann. It was the third indictment against the ousted strongman who was extradited from Belgrade on June 28.

The indictment by the court in The Hague charges Milosevic with 29 counts, including genocide, complicity to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, said Hartmann.

It alleges that Milosevic ``participated in a joint criminal enterprise, the purpose of which was the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.''

It included responsibility for the murder of more than 7,000 Muslims from the U.N.-declared protected zone of Srebrenica in July 1995. Thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats were held at more than 50 detention centers in ``inhuman conditions.''

``The total number of people expelled or imprisoned is estimated at over a quarter million,'' said the prosecution.

Milosevic has appeared defiantly three times before the court since he was transferred to the U.N. detention unit in a Dutch prison outside The Hague.

He has refused to appoint a lawyer to defend himself, calling the tribunal an illegitimate and biased court and a political tool of the Western NATO alliance.

Last week, the court agreed to allow a former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark to be his legal adviser, but he will not be allowed to defend the former president in court.

The tribunal said Clark, a civil rights activist who was attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, and British attorney John Livingston will be granted full privileges of defense council to meet and advise Milosevic in private, unmonitored consultations.

Prosecutors planned to merge all three indictments against Milosevic into one trial to shorten his time in court and eliminate overlapping testimony.

An initial trial date had been set for Feb. 12, 2002, but that would be delayed by several months if tribunal judges agree to the prosecution's joinder motion.

Once it starts, Milosevic's trial could last for more than a year.

Milosevic is expected to be summoned before Judge May again within a few days and asked to enter a plea to the latest charges. So far, he has refused to plead and the court has recorded innocent pleas on his behalf to all charges.

Milosevic now stands accused of every crime in the statute book of the tribunal, formed in 1993 specifically to try war crimes in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has said she expects to call hundreds of witnesses and present thousands of documents alleging Milosevic's complicity in a Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing in the decade-long wars that resulted from the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Milosevic was first indicted in May 1999 for alleged atrocities in Kosovo during the brutal Serb crackdown on ethnic Kosovar Albanians that left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.

In Kosovo, prosecutors say, the former president was responsible for the deaths of nearly 900 Kosovar Albanians, the deportations of 800,000 people and sexual assault by Yugoslav army troops.

In Croatia, Yugoslav forces under Milosevic looted, murdered and tortured hundreds of civilians in attacks aimed at creating a greater Serb state void of Croats, Muslims and other non-Serb inhabitants.