Milosevic Begins his Defense | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 05.07.2004
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Milosevic Begins his Defense

Accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic will begin defending himself before the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague on Monday.


Known for theatrical performances in court: Slobodan Milosevic

Milosevic has rejected a defense lawyer, but that's only one of many unusual aspects about the trial: He also refuses to recognize the legality of the court and the trial although he's long resigned himself to accepting that which he cannot change.

As a result, a group of lawyers is advising Milosevic, who is a lawyer himself, behind the scenes.

It's hard to speak of a defense, however: Milosevic plans to mock the court and those who defeated him. He has already said that he plans to call many of the latter as witnesses: heads of state and government, cabinet minsiters and many other political leaders from the West, who worked with Milosevic for years and are now accused by him of betraying, misleading and eventually combatting him.

The list of names is long and includes former U.S. president Bill Clinton, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as well as former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

A long list of witnesses

Milosevic plans to revist -- and re-write -- the last chapter of his country's history. Altogether he plans to call 1,300 witnesses to the stand, but it's still unclear whether the court will actually let him do that. Prosecutors meanwhile had two years to make their case and called on 300 witnesses.

Milosevic has insisted again and again that he should be granted the same at a minimum. He's also requested more time to prepare his defense as heart problems and other ailments have incapacitated him.

It's hard to tell that he's sick, however: Only his hair has turned white during his time in prison. He has already survived the presiding judge, Richard May from Britain, who had to deal with the defendant's snappish responses that forced him to frequently turn off Milosevic's

Microphone. May resigned from his post several weeks ago and died shortly after.

But May's death has not delayed proceedings, as some originally feared: Had the court replaced May with a new judge, he would have had to go over two years of proceedings. Instead, Patrick Robinson, already a member of the judge's panel, was appointed to the position.

Much remains to be seen during this "second half" of the Milosevic trial. It's not even clear how long the defendant's opening statements will take. He'll definitely try to turn it into a political speech -- addressed at his Serbian countrymen at home as well as a global public. Observers are curious to see whether the court will let this happen.

There is only one thing that's certain: The trial is far from being over.

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