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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 11:58 GMT
Analysis: Milosevic's trial tactics
Ex-president Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic continues to reject the Tribunal's authority
South-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos examines why Slobodan Milosevic is refusing to co-operate with the war crimes tribunal.

If Mr Milosevic persists with his defiance he will deprive himself of the benefit of legal representation, and that will make it much more likely that he is found guilty.

Yet the former Serbian strongman probably expects that he would be convicted in any case, and that no amount of legal expertise or detailed arguments about technicalities would help him.

He will be facing a mountain of evidence, including the testimonies of Kosovar Albanians survivors, the findings of forensic scientists who have exhumed the remains of thousands of victims, and possibly witness statements from Serb security forces personnel who took part in some of the atrocities.

Dutch lawyer at the Tribunal
Several Dutch lawyers represent Mr Milosevic
The tribunal does not have to prove that Mr Milosevic himself ordered his forces to commit atrocities - unless it wants to establish his personal responsibility.

It can find him guilty under what is called command responsibility - in other words, that as Yugoslavia's president he was commander-in-chief of the army - and under that stipulation it can convict him for failing to take measures to prevent war crimes or to punish those who committed them.

Milosevic's scheme

Rather than try to meet the charges head-on and the supporting evidence, Mr Milosevic may well believe that he has a better case through challenging the legality of the proceedings.

He has been arguing that the tribunal lacks legitimacy because it was set up by the United Nation's 15-member Security Council and not by its entire membership in the General Assembly.

Yet that claim does not carry much weight with international lawyers.

They point out that under the UN's own charter, the Security Council can issue instructions while the General Assembly's task is to make recommendations.

Challenge dismissed

On his second appearance in August the Dutch court in The Hague dismissed Mr Milosevic's legal challenge to the Tribunal.

It echoed an earlier ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in The Hague which described the war crimes Tribunal as an independent and impartial body.

Moreover, the court said it had no jurisdiction over the Tribunal since the Dutch Government had transferred control over war crimes issues to the UN.

Mr Milosevic will now be appealing to a higher court in the Netherlands to pursue his case against the Tribunal.

Although Mr Milosevic is refusing to appoint defence counsel, he has three teams of lawyers working for him.

A group of Dutch lawyers are acting for him in the Dutch courts, and a team of eight Serb lawyers represent him back in the Serbian courts where he is facing charges of abuse of power.

Then there is the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic - a group of anti-Nato intellectuals - includes several lawyers who have been advising Mr Milosevic informally.

So the former Yugoslav leader is not short of legal advice. But he does not appear to want lawyers to speak on his behalf in the tribunal chamber.

Dayton pledge

One reason is to show his refusal to accept the tribunal's legitimacy; another is that by defending himself, he becomes the main protagonist in the trial.

By claiming that the tribunal is a creature of the Nato alliance and Serbia's other alleged Western enemies, Mr Milosevic is hoping to become a rallying point for Serb nationalists, for anti-Western Orthodox Christians in eastern Europe and the Balkans as well as for anti-globalisation campaigners.

This would fit in with the historical image he's been cultivating as that of the hero - and now martyr - of the cause of national independence for small states.

Mr Milosevic will hope his supporters will have forgotten that nearly six years ago at the Dayton peace conference on Bosnia-Hercegovina, he undertook to co-operate with the same tribunal that he now denounces as illegal.

See also:

30 Aug 01 | Europe
Milosevic to face genocide charge
30 Aug 01 | Europe
Milosevic's second hearing
20 Aug 01 | Europe
Milosevic gets birthday visit
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