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Milosevic Trial Postponed

Judges grant former Serbian leader three months to prepare defence case after rejecting request for two-year break.
By Chris Stephen

Slobodan Milosevic was told by judges this week that his trial will be delayed by three months so that he can prepare his defence.

The September 17 ruling means the former Serbian president's trial at the Hague tribunal will be suspended, probably from January to April 2004.

The agreed delay falls far short of the two years that Milosevic had requested to work on his case. He had claimed that as he is defending himself, he would need all that time to prepare a proper defence when prosecutors wind up their case in December.

He also asked to be let out of jail for the two-year period - promising to come back if he was given bail.

But prosecutors argued that this was not needed, because although Milosevic has no court-accredited lawyer, he has a defence team both in The Hague and Belgrade who prepare case material for him.

The three months that judges agreed to will create a further delay in a case that is already likely to last six years, adding weight to criticism that the trial is taking too long.

However, the judges had something bigger in mind when they granted the postponement. They are bending over backwards to make sure that this, the greatest case the Hague tribunal will ever hear, is conducted with scrupulous fairness. If they succeed, then justice will in the end be done.

Chris Stephen is IWPR's tribunal project manager.

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