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Milosevic: Historic Trial Commences

Other Indicted War Criminals Remain at Large

(New York) - The trial of Slobodan Milosevic is a major benchmark for international justice, but it also spotlights the failure to arrest other architects of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Milosevic is the first former head of state to be charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
 
"This trial is a great step forward for justice, but equally notable are those indicted war criminals missing from the dock," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "Too many of the most senior Serb indictees remain at large. The blame lies with Balkan governments that have failed to cooperate with the tribunal, and with NATO, which has for six years operated in Bosnia without rounding up Milosevic's co-conspirators."  
 
Milosevic will be tried on three indictments for charges arising from the wars in Kosovo, Croatia, and Bosnia. The trial is expected to be enormously complex and lengthy. The charges cover ten years and include multiple counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Several hundred witnesses will testify. Milosevic, who has chosen to represent himself, continues to deny the authority of the tribunal to try him.  
 
"A major challenge for the judges is to apply the statute and rules so that Slobodan Milosevic gets a fair trial," Dicker said. "To date we are satisfied that the tribunal has respected his rights. Even though it would be easier for the judges and the prosecutor if Milosevic was defended by a lawyer, the tribunal is respecting his right to choose to defend himself without the assistance of counsel."  
 
While agreeing that Milosevic can represent himself, the three-judge trial panel has appointed three "amici curiae," or friends of the court -- lawyers who are tasked with helping the court ensure that Milosevic gets a fair hearing.  
 
Indictees at Large  
 
Human Rights Watch said Milosevic's prosecution highlights the continued impunity enjoyed by several indicted Serb leaders. As the trial begins, the four other accused named in the Kosovo indictment remain free, Dragoljub Ojdanic, former Chief of the Yugoslav Army's General Staff, Vlajko Stojiljkovic, former Serbian Minister of the Interior, Nikola Sainovic, former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, and Milan Milutinovic, who still holds the post of President of the Republic of Serbia.  
 
Also at liberty are Milosevic's alleged co-conspirators under the Bosnia indictment, Radovan Karadzic, wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and General Ratko Mladic, Bosnian Serb military commander. Karadzic is reportedly hiding in the Bosnian Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina; Mladic is believed to be in Serbia. In 1995, the two were indicted for their roles in the Bosnian war.  
 
Although Human Rights Watch welcomed the start of the Milosevic trial, the group cautioned that much remained to be done to obtain the justice so needed to move the region past the recent history of ethnic tension and violence. Human Rights Watch said that the tribunal's unfinished business includes indictments of Kosovo Albanians for crimes committed against ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.  
 
The ICTY was created in 1993 by U.N. Security Council resolution 827, which obliged all U.N. member states to "cooperate fully" with the tribunal and "take any measures necessary under their domestic law" to comply with its demands. The U.N. Charter's article 25, in turn, obliges member states to implement Security Council decisions.  
 
Serbia, one of the constituent republics of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, has cooperated with the tribunal, handing over Milosevic and several other indictees. Until now, the federal government of Yugoslavia, led by President Vojislav Kostunica, has rebuffed requests for cooperation from the tribunal. Kostunica continues to denounce the tribunal and discredit its proceedings in the view of Yugoslav public opinion.  
 
Trial Background  
 
On May 24, 1999, the tribunal indicted Milosevic, along with four other senior officials and officers, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Yugoslav and Serbian troops under their command in Kosovo in early 1999. The crimes include the slaughter of hundreds of ethnic Albanians, forcible deportations of hundreds of thousands of people, and persecution based on racial, religious, and political identification.  
 
The tribunal indicted Milosevic a second time on October 29, 2001, for crimes he allegedly committed in Croatia. The indictment charges Milosevic with multiple counts of murder, torture, detention, deportation and other atrocities committed during the attempted ethnic cleansing of Croatia from 1991 to 1992.  
 
On December 11, 2001, the ICTY issued a third indictment against Milosevic for crimes in Bosnia. The indictment includes one count of genocide, one count of complicity with genocide, and an additional twenty-seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The new charges cover the shelling of Sarajevo; the mass murder of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, both U.N.-proclaimed "safe areas;" and for the Omarska detention camp. Photographs of the Omarska inmates, who resembled Nazi concentration camp survivors, drew international attention in 1992.

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