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German Testifies in Milosevic Trial

The marathon trial of Slobodan Milosevic resumed at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague Tuesday with testimony about the 1999 killing of some 45 people in the Kosovo town of Racak.

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The former Yugoslav president again rejected his defense lawyer

The alleged massacre of civilians by Serbian troops in Racak is a key element in the UN court's indictment against the former Yugoslav president over the 1998-99 conflicts in the Serbian province of Kosovo, now under UN administration.

German investigative journalist Franz-Josef Hutsch took the stand as the fourth defence witness after the case had been adjourned for a month to give Milosevic's court-appointed British defense lawyer Steven Kay time to prepare his case.

Hutsch, a journalist for Stern magazine and several German newspapers, went to Racak in January 1999 with William Walker, the head of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor a ceasefire in Kosovo.

He described how he and Walker had discovered a group of bodies in a gully near Racak.

Walker later told journalists that approximately 45 civilians had been massacred there.

Milosevic justifies crackdown

Kosovo-Albaner auf der Flucht 1999

Ethnic Albanian refugees fled Kosovo in 1999

In response to the Kosovo indictment Milosevic has always maintained that the 1998-99 crackdown on ethnic Albanians by Serbian troops was a legitimate war against terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Islamic extremists.

He has argued that Racak was a stronghold of the KLA and insisted the people killed there were KLA fighters and not civilians.

Hutsch testified that around a hundred KLA fighters had been in and around the town to secure the area when Walker arrived.

However, despite Serbian assertions that the dead were KLA fighters, Hutsch said it was clear they were not potential KLA recruits as two-thirds of the victims were men over 50 years of

age.

During the prosecution case Milosevic argued that the bodies in Racak had been tampered with and the massacre staged.

Destroyed evidence?

Hutsch testified that on Jan. 16, a day after the killings, journalists could move freely among the bodies and disturbed the scene.

"Some colleagues rearranged the bodies in order to photograph them better ... From a forensic point of view we were actually destroying evidence," he said.

Milosevic stands accused of over 60 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the war in Croatia 1991-95, the 1992-95 Bosnian war and the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

335 Opfer des Massakers von Srebrenica werden beigesetzt

Identified bodies of 335 victims of the Srebrenica massacre were buried in July 2004

For the bloody war in Bosnia, which left over 200,000 people dead, he faces separate charges of genocide, the most serious of war crimes.

If convicted, Milosevic could be sentenced to life in prison.

Milosevic rejects defense lawyers

In court on Tuesday Milosevic again clashed with the judges over the defence lawyers the court forced upon him because of his bad health.

He poured scorn on Kay's questioning of the witness, labelling it "one further example that you ought to give me back my right to defend myself."

The former president refused the opportunity the judges gave him to ask questions of the witness himself.

"I don't wish to use scraps of a right that you took away in the first place," he said.

Slobodan Milosevic vor dem Internationalen Gerichtshof in Den Haag

Slobodan Milosevic entering the courtroom during a previous session

An appeal has been lodged with the Appeals Chamber of the UN court to overturn the court's decision to appoint defence counsel but it is unclear when they will hand down their ruling.

Since a lawyer was forced on him Milosevic has asked the judges to reinstate his right to present his own defence on every day he has come to court so far.

The trial will continue Wednesday with the prosecution cross-examination of Hutsch.

First hearing for Srebrenica genocide suspect

The Bosnian Serb army's former security chief, facing genocide charges for his alleged role in coordinating the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, meanwhile called on his "comrades in arms" to turn themselves in during his first appearance before the UN war crimes court on Tuesday.

Ljubisa Beara vor Gericht

Beara in court on Tuesday

Lubisja Beara, 65 (photo), who was transferred to The Hague on Sunday, did not enter a plea to the genocide charges against him but instead called on all remaining fugitives to turn themselves in.

"All of those who would see this, my comrades in arms, I call on them to voluntarily surrender to get rid of the stone that hangs around the neck of our nation," Beara said.

He did not specifically name Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, who has been on the run for the past nine years since he was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Mladic was Beara's direct superior at the time of the Srebrenica massacre, the only episode in the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s that the UN court has recognized as constituting a genocide.

Beara faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly coordinating different sections of the army to facilitate the slaughter. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

On Tuesday, Beara asked for a 30-day delay to consider his plea. He is now expected to enter a plea on Nov. 9.

Fischer urges Serbia to cooperate

Vuk Draskovic

Vuk Draskovic

Meeting with his Serbian counterpart, Vuk Draskovic (photo), in Berlin on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned that Serbia must cooperate more closely with the tribunal if it wanted closer links to the EU.

Fischer warned that the issue of cooperation between the court based in the Hague and Serbia and Montenegro was the "major obstacle" to the countries which once formed part of Yugoslavia from drawing closer to the European Union, which now stretches deep into eastern Europe.

"The major obstacle is the cooperation with the (tribunal) because we have every interest to move forward together," Fischer said after talks with Draskovic.

Fischer also urged Draskovic to ensure the republics of Serbia and Montenegro remained in the loose union that has bound them since the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formally disbanded last year. "We have an interest in the union between Serbia and Montenegro, we are not in favour of breaking up the union," Fischer said.

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