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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK
Milosevic denies tribunal legality
Scheveningen detention unit at The Hague
Milosevic wants immediate freedom from detention
Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic has begun a legal challenge to his detention by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

One of his four lawyers told a Dutch district court on Thursday that Mr Milosevic had been "kidnapped" and should be set free immediately.

Mr Milosevic and his lawyers claim that his transfer to the tribunal from Belgrade, and his continuing detention in the Netherlands, are illegal.

Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic has refused to enter a plea
Mr Milosevic remains in his cell while his lawyers argue the case.

Two lawyers for the Dutch Government are opposing arguments that the Dutch state has no right to hold Mr Milosevic.

The case is not being fought at the UN war crimes tribunal, but in Dutch courts.

The court is expected to issue a ruling on 31 August. Mr Milosevic's lawyers have said they will appeal to a higher court if they lose, and are prepared to take the fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Milosevic refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the war crimes tribunal, because it was set up by the United Nations Security Council, not the General Assembly.

If we believe in human rights and representation of legal rights, Milosevic will be in Belgrade next week

Milosevic lawyer Nico Varkevisser
His detention in the Netherlands is therefore illegal, his lawyers argue, as Dutch law bans the holding of prisoners whose detention would be considered illegal in their own countries.

UN Security Council resolutions are legally binding.

Mr Milosevic was being held in Belgrade on corruption charges when he was dramatically flown out of the country.

When he appeared before the tribunal, he refused to enter a plea on the grounds that it was not a legal body.

Kosovo Albanians flee into Albania
Milosevic is accused of atrocities in Kosovo
He faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo.

UN prosecutors say charges of war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia might be added later.

On Monday he celebrated his 60th birthday at the detention centre. His wife, daughter-in-law and grandson had flown in from Belgrade for the occasion.

Members of Mr Milosevic's legal team have spoken optimistically about their chances of winning his freedom.

"It is quite possible that the Dutch court will agree with Milosevic," said Canadian Christopher Black.

Another lawyer, Nico Varkevisser, said: "We think that if we believe in human rights and representation of legal rights, Milosevic will be in Belgrade next week."

The BBC's Colin Blane
"Mr Milosevic's lawyer set out to discredit the war crimes tribunal"
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