Milosevic Slams Military Tribunal | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.02.2002
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Milosevic Slams Military Tribunal

Prosecutors evoke memories of heinous crimes on the second day of the trial against former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. After erupting in rage, Milosevic says he will make his formal opening statement tomorrow.


Holding his head high

Living up to the expectations of a fiery and defiant response, former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic lashed out in the courtroom at the Hague war crimes tribunal as part of a "lynch process" against him.

"I challenge the legality of this tribunal. This tribunal does not have the competence to try", he roared on the second day of the landmark trial after listening to prosecutors outline a case against him in their opening arguments. He said the court and the media were part of a campaign to demonise him.

Milosevic, who refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the United Nations tribunal has spurned offers of a defence counsel. He said he would make his formal opening statement on Thursday morning.

The former Serbian leader stands accused of genocide in Bosnia and other crimes against humanity in Kosovo and Croatia.

Rekindling memories of brutality

Earlier the atmosphere in the courtroom was charged as prosecutors evoked memories of the gruesome 1995 Sebrenica massacre, the brutalities in a Bosnian camp and the harrowing Sarajevo siege, in their attempt to nail the disgraced Serbian leader.

Lawyers furnished documents and video and telephone excerpts to illustrate Milosevic's sway over Serb leaders in Bosnia and Croatia.

They accused Milosevic of a ruthless quest for power and argued that he was part of a grand conspiracy to carve an ethnically pure "Greater Serbia" from the ruins of Yugoslavia.

"The siege of Sarajevo was an episode of such notoriety that we must go back to World War Two to find a parallel in European history", prosecutor Geoffrey Nice said.


Milosevic remained impassive and tight-lipped, taking down notes once in a while. Wearing a tie in Serbian national colours, he glowered at a audience through the bullet-proof glass separating him from the lines of reporters.

Observers expect him to go on the offensive when he addresses the court formally tomorrow. He will probably insist that he was defending his people against Kosovo Albanian separatists and that Yugoslavia was a victim of NATO airstrikes launched after Serbia's 1999 assault on Albanians in its Kosovo province.

Media condemns Milosevic

Media around the world are playing up the trial and have applauded efforts to make a head of the state answerable to gory crimes for the first time.

Calling him a "monster" who oversaw "medieval horrors" and "Monster Inc", several newspapers splashed Milosevic's grim face across their pages.

"Hang him high" headlined Sweden's Expressen.

A vindictive tone was common among states crippled by the Balkans war in the 1990s.

"The Balkan butcher must answer charges of genocide", screamed the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz.

The historic trial has been likened to the trial of Hitler's associates in Nuremberg after World War Two.

The Nuremberg daily, Nuernberger Nachrichten said, "This trial will become the decisive test for the idea of global justice. Until now tyrants were considered taboo. From now on no one will wrongly believe that".

Is it a sham?

But despite the overwhelming clamour of righteousness, many voices are also questioning whether his trial can really promote justice.

In an article headlined, "A Parody of a Trial", the French conservative daily, Le Figaro said "whatever his genocidal behaviour might have been... the trial of Slobodan Milosevic is contrary to international criminal law and sets a dangerous precedent."

Ever since pre-trial hearings began last year, reaction in Serbia has been largely indifferent. Many feel that the trial is biased against the Serbs. They worry that the trial of one man might turn into the trial of an entire people.

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