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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 16:29 GMT
Milosevic challenges court's legitimacy
Slobodan Milosevic flanked by guards, sits down in court
Milosevic is to speak more fully on Thursday
Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, speaking for the first time at his war crimes trial, has again challenged the legitimacy of the United Nations tribunal in The Hague.

"I challenge the very legality of this tribunal," Mr Milosevic said on the second day of his trial.

He is accused of orchestrating a systematic campaign of mass murders, deportations and rapes as part of a plan to create an ethnically pure Serb state out of the ruins of former Yugoslavia.

Nekib Kelmendi, who says she will testify
This ethnic Albanian woman, whose husband and two sons were killed, says she will testify
But Presiding Judge Richard May told Mr Milosevic that it was too late to consider the issue, saying he had failed to use the opportunity he was given to appeal against the prosecution.

Mr Milosevic - a trained lawyer - also argued that his arrest in Belgrade had been "unlawful" because he said it violated the Serbian and Yugoslav constitutions.

'Biased'

He contended that the tribunal could not be impartial, accusing chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte of having already "proclaimed my sentence and judgment" in the media.

Mr Milosevic was given a chance to speak after the prosecution completed its opening statements, but with less than half an hour before a scheduled adjournment, he declined to begin his formal statement.

Instead, he demanded a response to his challenge to the tribunal's legitimacy.

'Beside the point'

But Mr May replied: "Your views on this court are entirely irrelevant." He said the tribunal had already ruled on its own legality.

Mr Milosevic is to address the court at greater length on Thursday.

Mr Milosevic - the first former head of state to be indicted before an international tribunal - is charged with genocide in Bosnia and other crimes against humanity and war crimes in Croatia and Kosovo.

He has refused to appoint lawyers to defend him before the UN tribunal in what is being described as the most important war crimes trial since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

Prosecution's case

Earlier prosecutors showed photographs of what they said was the aftermath of massacres and film of emaciated prisoners as they grimly catalogued the accusations against Mr Milosevic.

Prosecutor Dirk Ryneveld accused him of instigating and commanding "mass executions in a systematic process, in which Serb forces went from hamlet to hamlet, village to village, town to town, killing, raping and destroying everything in their path."


Milosevic charges
  • Genocide
  • Crimes against humanity
  • Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions
  • Violations of the laws or customs of war

    Click here for a full list of charges

  • "All this was done to ensure that they (the Serbs) ethnically cleansed the Kosovo Albanians from that province," he said, accusing Mr Milosevic of being the central, controlling figure in a web of murder and oppression.

    In Kosovo, ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova said he would testify against Mr Milosevic.

    "His trial is a very important event and brings satisfaction for the people of Kosovo," Mr Rugova said.

    Another prosecutor, Geoffrey Nice, also told the tribunal that a siege by Serb forces had reduced the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, to a state of "medieval deprivation" and Mr Milosevic's failure to stop events there showed his guilt.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Sue Haley
    "Some believe his next attack may be to distribute blame"
    The BBC's Jim Fish in the Hague
    "He has chosen not to have lawyers; he will speak his own case"
    Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
    "This tribunal does not have the competence to try"
    Prof Paul Williams helped to establish the tribunal
    "There's a very clear legal basis for the trial"
    See also:

    14 Feb 02 | Europe
    Kosovo glee at Milosevic plight
    12 Feb 02 | Europe
    Serbs stop work to watch trial
    11 Feb 02 | Europe
    Milosevic allies still at large
    12 Feb 02 | Europe
    Profile: Carla Del Ponte
    Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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