Tribunal Boost for Milosevic

Court goes out of its way to aid Milosevic in defence preparations.

Tribunal Boost for Milosevic

Court goes out of its way to aid Milosevic in defence preparations.

Wednesday, 9 November, 2005

Since the inauspicious close of the prosecutor’s case against Slobodan Milosevic – which came in the form of a motion to forgo its final two court days – the tribunal has been taken great pains to help him prepare his defense.

According to the tribunal’s rules, the accused or his lawyers may ask the court to dismiss any charges that they feel the prosecution has not proved.

Neither Milosevic nor his legal advisers asked the court to do so, but on March 5, the amici curiae, the lawyers appointed by the court to ensure that the proceedings against the former Yugoslav president proceed fairly, filed a 90-page motion requesting that the genocide charges be dropped.

The prosecution has been given until March 22 to respond to the request, and the judges will have to issue their ruling before June 8 when Milosevic is slated to begin his defence.

To aid Milosevic in his preparations, the court has provided him with two offices where he can make phone calls, send and receive faxes, as well as meet with witnesses.

One office is in the tribunal’s detention unit.

“I wouldn’t really call it an office,” said the tribunal’s deputy registrar, David Tolbert, who was in charge of arranging the facilities for Milosevic. “It’s just a room.”

The door to the room, which is on a separate floor from the one where most of the indictees are being held, has two locks. Milosevic has one key, and the warden of the detention unit has the other. The two-key system is intended to ensure that nobody but Milosevic, and then only with the permission of the warden, can enter the room.

Inside, Milosevic will have unlimited access to a phone, which the tribunal says the accused will pay for.

“Milosevic has not declared himself indigent, so he has to bare the [phone] costs,” Tolbert said.

There will be no restrictions on the calls he is allowed to make for his defence preparations and the tribunal will not monitor them, Tolbert said, unless Milosevic breaks the tribunal’s rules, which among other things, prohibit indictees from speaking to the press.

In the past, Milosevic had been known to break the rules. Early on during his incarceration, he used the detention unit’s public phone to place a call to Fox News in the United States.

However, Tolbert said the defendant has been well-behaved of late.

The second office Milosevic has been given is in the tribunal itself – though Tolbert said the accused would only use that office to interview witnesses who objected to entering the detention unit.

The tribunal will arrange for both Milosevic and whoever the witnesses are to be transported to the tribunal.

In addition to the offices, the tribunal has also appointed a court officer to facilitate communication between the accused and the chamber. The officer, whose identity has not been revealed, will also help the tribunal arrange for the transport of witnesses to The Hague.

At the same time, the tribunal is working to replace Judge Richared May, who has fallen ill and had to submit his resignation. And the trial chamber decided on March 8 that one of the other judges on the panel, Patrick Robinson, would take over from May as the presiding judge.

Although the court has made considerable preparations to facilitate Milosevic’s defense, it is not clear what the accused himself has done, if anything.

When the prosecution filed to rest its case, the defendant was reportedly too ill to appear in court.

Tribunal officials would not comment on whether he has been well enough to work in his new office.

Stacy Sullivan is IWPR project manager in The Hague.

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