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The BBC's Paul Wood
"Yugoslavia will know the rule of law"
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The BBC's Mike Williams in Belgrade
"Milosevic's lawyers are insisting the decree... is illegal"
 real 28k

Slobodan Milosevic's lawyer Toma Filo
"Constituional questions should not be solved by decrees"
 real 28k

Monday, 25 June, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Milosevic extradition process begins
Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic: Wanted over Kosovo atrocities
Yugoslavia has begun legal procedures to transfer former President Slobodan Milosevic to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, the state news agency Tanjug reported on Monday.

The federal justice minister... has submitted to the Belgrade district court a demand from the international criminal court for the handover of the accused

Tanjug news agency
Tanjug, quoting an official statement, said Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac had forwarded the tribunal's request for Mr Milosevic's transfer to a court in Belgrade, as required under a decree passed on Saturday by the Yugoslav Government.

Earlier, lawyers for a reportedly "furious" Mr Milosevic filed a challenge to the decree with the Yugoslav Constitutional Court, saying the constitution did not allow extradition.

The European Union praised the decree, saying it cleared the way for a donors' conference in Brussels on Friday - but US officials kept up the pressure on Belgrade saying they wanted more details before they would decide whether to attend.

'Political' decision

"The federal justice minister... has submitted to the Belgrade district court a demand from the international criminal court for the handover of the accused Slobodan Milosevic, with which concrete co-operation has been launched in line with the decree," Tanjug said.

The proceedings against him were a farce from the beginning - everything has been staged

Milosevic lawyer, Toma Fila
Mr Milosevic has been held in jail since 1 April, on charges of corruption and abuse of power. He faces charges of crimes against humanity at the tribunal in The Hague.

The government decree took effect on Sunday, and allows for the transfer of the former Yugoslav president and other indicted war criminals to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

It was passed after the Yugoslav parliament's rejection of a bill on extradition last week.

"This was a political decision and it renders the law helpless against such bullying methods," said lawyer Toma Fila, head of Mr Milosevic's defence team.

"The proceedings against him were a farce from the beginning - everything has been staged."

Donors' conference

Supporters of the decree say transferring Mr Milosevic and others does not amount to extradition because the tribunal is a UN institution, not a foreign state.

Mr Milosevic's lawyers are also expected to file a complaint with the Serbian Supreme Court to put the decree on hold while the Constitutional Court decides.

Slobodan Milosevic's solicitor, Toma Fila
Mr Fila has eight days to lodge an appeal
The former president's Socialist Party of Serbia has also said it will challenge the decree.

European Union foreign ministers meeting Luxembourg on Monday said the decree was a "positive step on the path towards full co-operation with the tribunal".

However, US State Department officials said that, although they welcomed the steps Belgrade had taken, they may still boycott the conference, where Yugoslavia is hoping to raise $1bn in aid.

"Milosevic needs to have international justice and that's what we are waiting to see - how they intend to go about that," one official was quoted as saying.

Other suspects

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said the transfer, if approved, could happen in two to three weeks.

A supporter of Slobodan Milosevic
Supporters of the former president have branded the decree illegal
Another 15 war crimes suspects, including four senior military and political associates of Mr Milosevic indicted at the same time, are sheltering in Yugoslavia.

Some are the subject of secret indictments issued by the tribunal. But all eyes are on Mr Milosevic.

If he is transferred he would be the first former head of state to be tried by a war crimes tribunal.

He is accused of planning and ordering a campaign of terror, persecution and violence against the Kosovo Albanians, at the end of the 1990s.

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