Andrew Osborn








Milosevic to face genocide charge.

The Guardian, 31st August 2001 17:14

Andrew Osborn in the Hague

Slobodan Milosevic is to be charged with genocide, the gravest of war crimes, prosecutors announced yesterday, immediately after the former Yugoslav leader made his second appearance before the war crimes tribunal.

In a move designed to hold him personally responsible for almost 10 years of Balkan bloodshed, the chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, will charge him with genocide for massacres perpetrated by his forces in Bosnia and possibly also Croatia.

The disclosure came minutes after Mr Milosevic's second appearance before the war crimes tribunal in the Hague, where he again refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court and criticised the conditions in which he is held.

Ms del Ponte said she would file a new indictment on October 1 for crimes allegedly committed against Bosnian Muslims and Croats in the early 1990s. These charges will be added to the existing indictment, which includes four separate charges - relating to deportation, murder and persecution - stemming from the Kosovo crisis in 1999.

Only one man, General Radislav Krstic, who oversaw the slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, has been convicted by the tribunal of genocide. He was sentenced to 46 years in prison last month.

Flanked by two security guards, Mr Milosevic remained defiant and turned what was supposed to be a routine hearing into a sparring match between himself and the judge.

Dressed in a dark blue suit and a tie bearing the colours of the Serbian flag, Mr Milosevic spoke for about 10 minutes in heavily accented but articulate English. His opening comment - `I would like to know can I speak or are you going to turn off my microphone like last time' - solicited titters from the press gallery and set the tone for what followed. He went on to deliver a litany of complaints about what he regards as his illegal imprisonment by `a false tribunal'.

`I am discriminated against all the time, from the first day I got in,' he said, adding that he was unhappy about visiting rules for his family and advisers. `Why am I isolated from my family? Why can't my family visit me like the others? Why are you monitoring conversations with my grandson who is two and a half years old?'

He also railed against the UN's refusal to allow him to communicate with the press. `Why I am isolated from the press when every single day there is something printed or broadcast against me as a pure lie? So, you are keeping me in isolation,' he said. `Maybe there are some of them [journalists] who would like to know the truth. I believe nobody needs to be afraid of the truth.'

On several occasions the presiding judge, Briton Richard May, lost patience with the defendant and cut him short, stating: `Very well, Mr Milosevic, there must be an end to this.' He said the prison rules barring media interviews applied to everyone. Later he interrupted Mr Milosevic, saying: `We are not going to listen to these political arguments.'

The hearing finished abruptly with Mr Milosevic cranking up to deliver another attack upon the tribunal only to find himself cut short and his microphone turned off.

The three judges stood up and walked out briskly, leaving Mr Milosevic to depart flanked by four guards.

The next hearing is due on October 29 and the trial some time next year. Judge May said he wanted a final trial date to be fixed in January or February and Ms del Ponte suggested she might be ready to go to trial in the autumn.

In recent weeks Milosevic has been allowed to mingle with other war crimes suspects at the UN detention unit after more than a month of isolation. He is said to play cards with fellow inmates and spend much of his time reading.

Mr Milosevic's daughter has joined an ultra-nationalist party led by a rival to her parents, it was reported yesterday.

Vojislav Seselj, head of Serbian Radical party, said Marija Milosevic had signed up to his organisation. Her father is still officially in charge of Serbia's Socialist party and her mother, Mira Markovic, leads the neo-communist Yugoslav Left.

Ms Milosevic, born in 1964, ran a Belgrade-based TV station when Mr Milosevic ruled the country but was not previously a member of any party.