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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Milosevic tribunal calls BBC witness
Slobodan Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic can question witnesses
The BBC's former Belgrade correspondent, Jacky Rowland, is to appear at the war crimes tribunal in the Hague on Tuesday, to give evidence at the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

She will answer questions about what she saw in the Dubrava prison in Kosovo in 1999, where numerous prisoners were killed.

Serb authorities claimed that Nato planes bombed the prison, killing the inmates, but at the time Jacky Rowland reported that it was not clear how the prisoners had died.

Jacky Rowland
Jacky Rowland was expelled from Yugoslavia
A BBC correspondent in The Hague, Geraldine Coughlan, says Jacky Rowland's decision to give evidence is sure to heighten the debate on whether reporters should testify at such cases.

Some argue it casts doubt on their objectivity, while others claim it is their duty as a citizen.

Meanwhile, a group of international news organisations have asked the court in The Hague to reconsider an order that a former reporter for the Washington Post must give evidence to the tribunal.

The media organisations said the court should recognise that journalists should not be compelled to give evidence except where absolutely essential.

Genocide charges

Jacky Rowland will be cross-examined by Mr Milosevic, who is defending himself against about 60 charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for the wars in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia.

Milosevic charges
Crimes against humanity
Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions
Violations of the laws or customs of war
His trial resumed on Monday after a month-long break.

The prosecution has only two weeks to wrap up its case on Kosovo, where Mr Milosevic's Yugoslav forces fought ethnic Albanian separatists in the 1998-1999 war.

Hearings will then turn to the earlier wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

Medical reports suggesting that Mr Milosevic is at risk of a heart attack could result in moves to slow down the pace of the trial.

Role of journalists

Jacky Rowland agreed to testify because she said she considers it her duty.

Others, who have also testified at the court in The Hague - such as a former BBC war correspondent, Martin Bell - claim journalists are no different from other professionals when it comes to witnessing a crime.

But some argue it casts doubt on their objectivity and could endanger their lives.

A retired Washington Post correspondent, Jonathan Randal, is the first journalist to refuse to give evidence at the tribunal.

On Monday lawyers intervened on behalf of Mr Randal, asking the tribunal to outline procedures to protect journalists from being forced to give evidence except in essential circumstances.

Now five international media organisations have supported his stand, urging the tribunal "to recognize a qualified privilege for journalists not to be compelled to testify about their news gathering before this court unless certain conditions are met - namely that the information is absolutely essential to the case and that it cannot be obtained by any other means".

"Forcing journalists to testify against their sources (confidential or otherwise) will make future sources more hesitant to talk to the press, particularly in war zones," the news groups said in a statement.

At The Hague

Still wanted



See also:

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