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 Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Richard May: The man judging Milosevic
Judge May
Judge May has served at the tribunal since 1997
The presiding judge in the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is a former British prosecutor with a reputation for being firm but fair.

Judge Richard George May, 62, has served at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for four years and has pronounced decisions in other cases relating to the Balkans.

I hope you are not going to be too long with this witness

Judge May, 1998
He is also heading the panels hearing the cases of two other high ranking civilian defendants.

Colleagues say he will make sure Mr Milosevic, the court's highest-profile defendant, has a fair trial.

"He won't bow to political pressure," said Howard Morrison , a British lawyer and a former colleague. "He will do what he thinks is right and won't do something because it's popular."

Distinguished judge

Gravel-voiced Judge May is known as being plain-speaking and a stickler for the rules.

Slobodan Milosevic in court
Mr Milosevic does not recognise the UN court
His own words show that he does not appreciate people wasting his time.

"I hope you are not going to be too long with this witness ... We are getting rather far away from the subject," he said in 1998, when the defence lawyer for Bosnian Serb Milan Kovacevic - the first suspect tried for genocide - delivered a lesson in 14th-century Serb history to the court.

London-born Judge May, the father of three children, was educated at Haileybury College and Cambridge University, graduating in 1964. The following year he joined the South East circuit court in England as a barrister. He gained 12 years experience as a criminal prosecutor before joining the bench.

He became a recorder, or part-time judge, in 1985 and became a circuit judge in the Midlands two years later.

In 1997 he was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to a four-year term with the ICTY, and was re-elected in March 2001. He is one of 16 international judges at the tribunal.

Judge May has been appointed to the court's highest profile cases, including that against former Bosnian Serb President Bljana Plavsic, and against Momcilo Krajisnik, a close ally to wartime Bosnian leader Radovan Karadic. Neither trial has begun.


Earlier this year Judge May presided over the case of Dario Kordic - the most senior Bosnian Croat civilian to be tried in UN custody. Kordic was sentenced to 25 years in prison for authorising murders and crimes against Bosnian Muslims.

Dario Kordic
Dario Kordic was sentenced to 25 years
However, in a ruling that could prove significant to the Milosevic case, Judge May acquitted Kordic on some counts of command responsibility for the actions of subordinates.

"The Chamber holds that great care must be taken in assessing the evidence to determine command responsibility in respect of civilians, lest an injustice is done," the three-member tribunal ruled.

But last year Judge May showed his tough side when he presided over a five-member appeals chamber.

Zlatko Aleksovski, a Bosnian Croat prison commander, appealed against his 1999 conviction and sentence to two-and-a-half years imprisonment. But rather than merely reject the appeal, the judge said the trial court had been too lenient and increased Aleksovski's sentence to seven years.

Political career

Judge May once held political ambitions at home. He stood as Labour's parliamentary candidate against Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the year she swept into power as prime minister. At the time he insisted that the Tory leader's 3,900-majority constituency of Finchley, in north London, was winnable for Labour.

He was also a Labour member of Westminster City Council where he served as leader of the opposition from 1974 to 1979. During this time he campaigned for a help centre for homeless children, a tourism agency for London, and for low rent accommodation in the centre of the city. In 1970 he was Labour's parliamentary candidate for Dorset South.

Since 1998, Judge May has chaired the tribunal's Committee on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. He has written numerous articles on criminal evidence and procedure including "Principles and Practice of Forensic Psychiatry" in 1990.

Also on the three-judge panel at Slobodan Milosevic's trial will be Judge Patrick Lipton Robinson of Jamaica and Judge Mohamed El Habib Fassi Fihri of Morocco.

At The Hague

Still wanted



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03 Jul 01 | Europe
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