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ANALYSIS: Milosevic Sinks into Oblivion

Former Yugoslav president blames the tribunal, his lawyers and international admirers for his descent into oblivion.
By Mirko Klarin

Slobodan Milosevic is slowly but inevitably sinking into oblivion and becoming just one of the 50 or so men accused of war crimes in the tribunal's detention unit.


But the man who built his political career on manipulating the Serbian state press and other media - which served a cause that Carla Del Ponte has defined as a "joint criminal enterprise" - is finding the loss of public interest hard to take.


Besides the tribunal, which Milosevic accused of denying him contact with the media at an August 30 status conference, the former Yugoslav president blames his Belgrade lawyers and international admirers for his descent into oblivion, charging them of not doing enough for him on the public relations front.


Recently, detainees on his floor and detention unit staff heard him shouting on the phone, demanding urgent press conferences where the "so-called tribunal" and the latest "false indictment" for genocide in Bosnia could be "unmasked" and the public informed of the "torture" he has undergone in tribunal custody.


On Milosevic's orders, his Belgrade lawyers and supporters in the International Committee for the Defence of Slobodan Milosevic, ICDSM, tried to revive interest in Serbia and the world in the former head of state's destiny at press conferences held last week in Belgrade and Amsterdam.


Alongside old, well-known accusations against "the so-called tribunal", the "false indictments", the unwanted services of the "friends of the court" (amici curiae) who he says "usurped his right to defend himself", and the tribunal's attempts to "impose legal advisors", a new accusation was heard.


This was that the management of the UN detention unit was "subjecting Milosevic to torture, in order to break his health and spirit".


Unfortunately for Milosevic, his Belgrade lawyers and international admirers failed to harmonise their public statements in Belgrade and Amsterdam.


While in Belgrade the lawyers said Milosevic was unable to sleep because the lights were left on in his cell, the ICDSM in Amsterdam claimed they had been recently switched off.


Detention unit management cleared the matter up, confirming that in late July they had decided there was no need for a light to be on in Milosevic's cell. This came in response to an IWPR inquiry about whether suicide watch over the former president had been reinforced following the announcement of his indictment for genocide in Bosnia.


The worst Amsterdam news for Milosevic was that the media showed scant interest in what the ICDSM representatives Christopher Black, from Canada, and Nico Steijnen and Nico Varkevisser, from the Netherlands, said about his "suffering".


Barely a dozen journalists turned up and they were mostly Dutch, and mainly interested in an internal Dutch row between Steijnen and Varkevisser and the amicus curiae, Michail Wladimiroff, who is also from the Netherlands.


The first two lawyers - who unsuccessfully represented Milosevic in proceedings initiated by the ICDSM before the Dutch courts disputing the legality of his transfer and detention in The Hague - have accused Wladimiroff of acting as the tribunal's "mercenary" and of violating Dutch legal code by accepting a post with them.


International media interest in Milosevic has declined with every appearance he has made before the tribunal. More than 300 journalists covered his Hague debut on July 3, 2001. About 200 turned up for the August 30 status conference and about 100 for the second conference on October 29-30.


It would be a pity, not so much for Milosevic, but for the victims of his alleged crimes, if the trend continues on the next occasion, scheduled for December 11, as this could be the most important hearing so far.


Milosevic will then be publicly read the indictment accusing him of the gravest crime: genocide in Bosnia, after which he will be asked to enter a plea.


There will also be a hearing on the chief prosecutor's request for a joint trial on all three indictments against Milosevic. The prosecution requested this last week, explaining in detail why Milosevic should face one trial.


It said the three indictments all concerned "a common scheme, strategy or plan... to create a 'Greater Serbia'... encompassing Serb-populated areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and all of Kosovo".


It added, "This was to be achieved primarily by forcibly removing non-Serbs from large geographical areas of the former Yugoslavia through the commission of crimes in violation of Articles 2 to 5 of the Statute of the Tribunal (such as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949; violations of the Laws or Customs of War; and Genocide and Crimes against Humanity)."


The prosecution's request said the aims and methods of the three "joint criminal enterprises" for which Milosevic is accused are identical and that many of Milosevic's accomplices in those undertakings were the same as well.


The prosecution has also cited "judicial economy" in support of its argument for a single trial. It said the public interest was best served by a single chamber of three judges as opposed to three separate chambers with nine different judges.


A single trial will mean fewer witnesses, as at least 20 of the 600 potential witnesses are scheduled to appear in more than one trial, exposing them to unnecessary trauma. At the same time, key expert witnesses whose testimonies will last days will also be hard pressed to repeat the same account several times.


The prosecution request disclosed for the first time that it expects testimonies from an "additional senior level witnesses" from Serbia and Yugoslavia, who will give testimony relevant to all three indictments.


Also for the first time, testimonies from banking experts - charged with interpreting documents supplied by Cypriot and Greek banks that reveal how he used accounts in them to fund and support various military, paramilitary and police forces operating in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo - have been announced.


Once more supporting the case for a single trial, the prosecution said recalling these experts before separate chambers would be "undesirable and time consuming".


Besides Milosevic, four others - Milan Milutinovic, Nikola Sainovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic and Vlajko Stojiljkovic - have been accused over the crimes in Kosovo.


If the chamber agrees to a single trial for Milosevic, the other four co-accused will be separated for a different trial. They might then face the court at a later date along with other participants in the Kosovo "joint criminal enterprise" who are still being investigated.


The prosecution's pre-trial brief for the trial of Milosevic on the Kosovo indictment, also filed last week, listed their names.


It starts with three generals: Nebojsa Pavkovic, presently Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army and commander of the 3rd Army during the Kosovo campaign; Sreten Lukic, head of MUP (Ministry of the Interior Affairs - police) forces in Kosovo in 1999 and now chief of the Public Security Division of MUP in Serbia; and Vladimir Lazarevic, who commanded the 52nd Corps operating in Kosovo in 1999.


It then names five key police suspects. These are Vlastimir Djordjevic, head of the Public Security Division in 1999; Radomir Markovic, head of the State Security Division (secret police) in 1999; Nikola Curcic, deputy head of state security, and Franko Simatovic "Frenki", head of a special operations unit of state security (the only co-perpetrator included in all three "joint criminal enterprises", in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo). Lastly, there's Milorad Ulemek "Legija", commander of Special Operation Units in Kosovo.


These eight suspects will face trial, depending on the results of an on-going investigation into their individual role and responsibility.


If, as expected, a single trial is agreed on December 11, they may then for the sake of "judicial economy" join the trial of Milutinovic, Sainovic, Ojdanic, and Stojiljkovic. The four men are expected in The Hague next year.


Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor for the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.


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