Yugoslav tribunal to hear genocide case against Milosevic

Saturday, November 24, 2001

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- The U.N. war crimes tribunal said Friday it will try Slobodan Milosevic for genocide in Bosnia, linking him for the first time in court to the murder of thousands of non-Serbs and the displacement of a quarter million people.

Judge Richard May approved the third indictment against the former Yugoslav president, confirming that years of investigation had produced enough evidence to put him on trial for mankind's worst crime.

Prosecutors charged the 60-year-old defendant with criminal responsibility for the "widespread killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats" during the 3 1/2-year Bosnian war.

The latest indictment lists dozens of execution sites, detention facilities and the locations of more than 8,600 murders across Bosnia.

It charges Milosevic with 29 counts, including genocide, complicity to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the law/customs of war -- every crime in the tribunal's statute.

Milosevic, extradited to U.N. custody on June 28, now faces a total of 66 charges of war crimes spanning nearly a decade of conflict in the Balkans. He had been accused of 32 counts of war crimes in Croatia and five in Kosovo, but the Bosnia indictment is the first to include genocide.

He could face life imprisonment if guilty on any charge.

To convict Milosevic of genocide, prosecutors must prove he acted with the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." Those acts include murder, inflicting living conditions designed to eliminate a group, preventing births or transferring children from one group to another.

Milosevic will be asked to enter a plea in mid-December.

Judges are expected to grant a prosecution motion to join the Bosnia indictment with the two other cases, making it likely Milosevic will go on trial in the spring.

Milosevic "participated in a joint criminal enterprise" seeking to permanently remove the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the indictment says.

It includes responsibility for the murder of more than 7,000 Muslims at the U.N.-declared protected zone of Srebrenica in July 1995.

Thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats were held at more than 50 detention centers in "inhuman conditions," and many were trucked off to execution sites, the charges say. "The total number of people expelled or imprisoned is estimated at over a quarter million," the prosecution said.

The genocide indictment was widely welcomed in Bosnia.

Mirsad Tokaca, head of the Muslim Commission for War Crimes Research, labeled Milosevic "the creator of all evil that occurred in Bosnia."

Milosevic has refused to appoint a defense lawyer, calling the tribunal illegitimate. Last week, the court agreed to allow Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general in the 1960s, to be his legal adviser. He will not be allowed to defend Milosevic in court.

When it starts, the trial could last a year or longer. Prosecutors have lined up hundreds of witnesses and thousands of documents accusing Milosevic of ethnic cleansing.

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