Friday, July 07, 2006

Top Milosevic aides go on trial

Six former high-level political and military leaders of Serbia and Yugoslavia appear in court in The Hague on Monday charged with alleged crimes committed in Kosovo in 1999.

The "mega trial", as some are referring to it, begins four months after their boss, Slobodan Milosevic, died in his cell as his trial on similar charges was nearing its end.

One of the accused, Milan Milutinovic, was Serbia's president during the conflict and, thus, nominally the second most important person after Milosevic.

As such he is the next best hope the prosecution have of obtaining the conviction of a head of a state over the alleged war crimes.

Milan Milutinovic, however, was not a proper head of state. Serbia was one of the entities of the truncated Yugoslav Federation, which is now defunct. But Serbia was not a recognised country in its own right.

More significantly, Mr Milutinovic never was the heavyweight of Serbian politics, having built his career in the shadow of Slobodan Milosevic.

So it will be something of an anti-climax to see the soft-spoken, greying man in the same dock that was occupied by Milosevic just a few months ago.

There will certainly be less of a frisson in the public gallery, less of a scramble among journalists and television crews to carry the proceedings live - and certainly less excitement in the bench after the frequent clashes with Milosevic which it often relished.

The victims of the war will still want to see the accused put away - possibly for life. After all, they felt cheated that Slobodan Milosevic died before judgment was rendered.

Shadow of Milosevic

Chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte may also have felt cheated by Mr Milosevic's untimely death, but she has not been less diligent in the new case.

The indictment of the six men may look a bit thinner than Mr Milosevic's - but it is certainly not patchy.

The prosecution should have had all the benefit of the evidence accumulated since February 2002, when Milosevic's case began.

And the crimes are similar - save genocide, which Milosevic had been charged with over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. It is not on the charge sheet now.

The indictment alleges that the accused participated in a joint criminal enterprise that aimed, among other things, to change the ethnic balance in Kosovo to ensure continued Serb control over the province.

It alleges that the accused, and their associates, "used the powers available to them as political and military leaders to achieve this".

Legal complexities

The prosecution in the case of Milosevic appeared to face difficulty trying to directly link the ex-leader to the alleged crimes.

They will now have to try again, perhaps with the same witnesses - and may even have a better chance.

None of the six appearing in court on Monday command the respect - or the votes - that Mr Milosevic did in certain Serbian circles.

And they may not get the same kind of sympathy or support from Belgrade.

However, the accused, for their part, may find it easier to blame the man who is now dead.

Mr Milutinovic, for instance, has often insisted he had no real power. So even if a link to the top leadership is established, the accused may seek to shift it onto Milosevic.

Any conviction can only come after proof beyond reasonable doubt - and the burden of proof is on the prosecution.

The accused do not have to prove they are innocent - they are presumed so, and they have said it for the court's benefit.

But it has taken a long time for the case to come to court - it often does and the UN tribunal is often criticised for its slow pace.

The first of the six officials made his initial appearance at The Hague on 26 April 2002 - the last on 28 April 2005.

In theory their cases should be treated separately - and some could have concluded, had they been treated so.

However, this would have resulted in an overwhelming duplication of evidence and effort, given the similarity of the alleged offences.

So the cases were merged only in July last year. And it normally takes that long for the prosecution to seek to corroborate their evidence through witnesses and documentary proof.

Perhaps in recognition of this delay, the accused were provisionally released last year, pending the trial.

There is a strong possibility, too, that the prosecution might have been awaiting a judgment in the Milosevic case that could have been applied to his aides.

The proceedings at The Hague will be lengthy - the prosecution says it needs at last a year to submit its evidence. After that comes the defence, which will take at least as long, as strict time-keeping is something the judges like to stress.

Whatever the length, or the outcome, this case is unlikely to have the colour and melodrama often generated by Milosevic.


Milan Milutinovic argues he had little power; Milosevic's death will overshadow the proceedings


Fatos said...

One by one half of Serbia has gone to Hague, which is a big mistake - they should have sent them all together.

Cvijus011 said...

"One by one half of Serbia has gone to Hague, which is a big mistake - they should have sent them all together."

And you call me a racist. Shame on you you hipocrite

NYoutlawyer said...

Surely but slowly, the truth always surfaces. I believed this all along. I'm sure the albaniacs will discredit this, since it is not from an albaniac publication.

betabe said...

Fatos said...

Cvijus011 said...

"One by one half of Serbia has gone to Hague, which is a big mistake - they should have sent them all together."

And you call me a racist. Shame on you you hipocrite.



Fatos said...

I just came across this very interesting article which I find very sad. Would Kosovar law make these people eligible to get asylum in Kosova? Anyone knows? They deserve it.

BELGRADE, Serbia (UPI) -- Serbian authorities said Monday 320 inmates in a Belgrade prison refused meals and 65 injured themselves, protesting detention conditions.

In the Belgrade District Prison, 65 prisoners sewed up their lips, and 320 refused to eat breakfast, the Serbian prison management said.

The prisoners with injuries were given immediate medical treatment, while those who refused meals were placed under constant medical care, Belgrade`s B92 radio reported.

The protesting inmates complained courts have been slow in processing their cases, and detention conditions are poor. They said too many prisoners are kept in each cell, worsening living conditions particularly in warm summer months.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

NYoutlawyer said...

Of course, anyone that takes an "opposite to what albaniacs believe", is an unreliable source. Open your eyes albaniacs. Besides wanting to irritate you conehead pricks, I don't know why I bother blogging here.