Milosevic Dies in Cell

The man accused of responsibility for much of the bloodshed in the Balkans in the Nineties dies in bed.

Milosevic Dies in Cell

The man accused of responsibility for much of the bloodshed in the Balkans in the Nineties dies in bed.

Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president who was standing trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, was found dead in his cell on March 11, the Hague tribunalhas announced.

A medical officer called by a warder at the Scheveningen detention unit, where those indicted on war crimes charges are held, confirmed that Milosevic was dead.

A tribunal spokesperson told Reuters there was no indication that it was suicide, although of course only an autopsy could prove this. Dutch police and a coroner have been summoned.

Milosevic was arrested in Belgrade in April 2001 by the Serbian authorities who ousted him, and transferred to The Hague in June that year, making his first court appearance the following month.

He faced numerous counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in indictments that embraced the conflict in Croatia, the subsequent war in Bosnia and Hercegovina, and finally the Kosovo conflict which ended with NATO bombing the then Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanians winning de facto autonomy from Belgrade under United Nations auspices.

The charge of genocide related to Bosnia, where Milosevic – allegedly acting together with other leaders including senior Bosnian Serbs – was charged with the "planning, preparation and execution of the destruction, in whole or in part", of the Bosnian Muslim community. This policy of genocide was pursued, the indictments says, through the widespread killing and abuse of civilians – most notably in Srebrenica in July 1995 where up to 8,000 men and boys were slaughtered.

Prosecutors at the Hague tribunal have faced the task of linking Milosevic, who was president of Serbia at the time, with events in Bosnia, which Belgrade insisted amounted to a three-way internal civil war in a separate country. They brought evidence to support their claim that Milosevic and his government actively supported the Bosnian Serb military and its political leaders, to the extent that he was aware of and complicit in human rights abuses for which they were responsible.

Barring unexpected delays, the Milosevic trial could have been over in a few month's time, with judges delivering a verdict some months later.

Milosevic's death means that the charge that he bore personal responsibility for much of the bloodsletting of the Nineties in the Balkans will never be proven in a courtroom. However, in a separate case now being heard at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Bosnia is suing the state of Serbia and Montenegro (as the heir to Yugoslavia) for genocide and other grave crimes.

In coming days, IWPR will be assessing the impact Milosevic's death will have on the Hague tribunal and war crimes accountability generally.
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