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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 04:34 GMT
Milosevic's lawyers must stay on
By Geraldine Coughlan
BBC News, The Hague

Slobodan Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic is charged with genocide and war crimes
Judges in The Hague have rejected a request by lawyers appointed to defend the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from the case.

The tribunal imposed defence counsel on Mr Milosevic against his will to prevent his ill health further delaying the long trial.

But the lawyers argued Mr Milosevic refused to co-operate with them.

Last month, Mr Milosevic was again put in charge of his defence, with the two British lawyers put on standby.

It was expected the judges would order the lawyers to stay on to avoid the issue of Mr Milosevic's defence becoming even more sensitive.

The lawyers - Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins - had asked for permission to quit, arguing that, because Mr Milosevic would not talk to them, they could not act in his best interests.

They told the judges that refusing to allow them to withdraw would raise ethical questions.

The legal community has been divided over the decision to impose counsel on Mr. Milosevic, which he called an attempt to muzzle him.

Since he was given back his right to lead his own defence last month, he has been questioning witnesses himself. But the court ruled that the standby lawyers must remain in case Mr. Milosevic is too ill to attend court.

If the lawyers defy the ruling and try to leave the trial, they could risk disbarment, potentially damaging the tribunal's reputation.

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