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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
Milosevic extradited
Slobodan Milosevic
The US forced the pace on Milosevic's extradition
The former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, has been delivered to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Mr Milosevic was secretly handed over to tribunal investigators in Belgrade on Thursday following a crisis meeting of the reformist Serbian Government.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica
Kostunica opposed the extradition
He was then flown to a Nato base in northern Bosnia, and from there to the UN detention centre at Hague.

In allowing this to happen, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic ignored objections from Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who has denounced the extradition as illegal and unconstitutional.

It comes less than 24 hours before the opening of an international donor conference that is crucial to Yugoslavia's economic recovery.

The long-awaited extradition means that Mr Milosevic will become the first former head of state to face trial by the war crimes tribunal.

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

Prosecutors say they also plan to broaden the charges to cover alleged war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia.

Mr Milosevic was taken from his cell in Belgrade's central prison and flown by helicopter to a US-run airbase in Tuzla, Bosnia on Thursday afternoon. There, he was put on a Nato plane for The Hague.

Public anger

The extradition of the man who once embodied the hopes of Serbian nationalism has sparked turmoil in Yugoslavia.

Rise and fall of Milosevic
1989: Becomes Serbian president
1991-95: Launches wars in Croatia and Bosnia
1998: Starts campaign against Kosovo Albanians
1999: Withdraws following Nato bombing
1999: Indicted by UN tribunal
2000: Rigs elections, ousted by popular uprising
2001: Imprisoned after stand-off with police.
2001: Extradited to the Hague
The junior partner in the federal government - once allied to Mr Milosevic - says it is pulling out of the coalition in protest.

And more than 1,000 Milosevic supporters have taken to the streets of Belgrade, venting their anger and attacking journalists.

The handing over of Mr Milosevic followed an extraordinary meeting of the Serbian Government, called to discuss an earlier ruling by the Yugoslav constitutional court which put a hold on the extradition process.

The court had said it wanted two weeks to evaluate an appeal by Mr Milosevic's lawyers against a decree issued by the Yugoslav Government on Saturday, which paved the way for the handover.

But the Serbian prime minister had already made it clear he would bypass the court, which reformers accused of being manned by Milosevic cronies.

Shortly after news of the extradition broke, Mr Djindjic issued a statement, saying his government had decided to take over the jurisdiction of federal authorities on the extradition law.

Later Mr Djindjic said, in a televised address to the nation, that there would have been "negative consequences for the future of our country" if it had failed to co-operate with the war crimes tribunal.

Slobodan Milosevic's solicitor, Toma Fila
Toma Fila: "I cannot believe that this has happened"

In his first reaction to the news, Mr Milosevic's lawyer, Toma Fila said: "I cannot believe that this has happened."

Mr Fila had argued that sending the former president to the international tribunal would violate a Yugoslav ban on extradition.

But the Serbian Government argued that it did not amount to extradition as the tribunal is a United Nations institution, not a foreign state.

Mr Milosevic's departure for the Hague comes a day before an international donor conference in Brussels at which Belgrade hopes to secure $1bn in aid.

The US has said it will not hand over any money until Mr Milosevic and other war crimes suspects are transferred to the Hague tribunal.

Mr Milosevic has been held in jail since 1 April on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Fish
"Milosevic awaits trial against war crimes and crimes against humanity"
Bosnian UN Ambassador, Husein Zivalj
"This is very symbolic"
Human Rights Watch, Richard Dicker
"The case has wider implications"
The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"The Americans brought to bear much of the pressure which resulted in the extradition "

At The Hague

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28 Jun 01 | Europe
27 Jun 01 | Business
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