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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Milosevic defence: Your views
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in the court at The Hague
The former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, has begun his much-delayed defence at The Hague.

He began by denying the charges against him over his alleged role in the 1990s Balkans wars.

Mr Milosevic, who is representing himself, is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the conflicts, in which tens of thousands were killed.

But he said the international community had been "the main force for the destruction of Yugoslavia" in the Balkans wars and argued that the Serbs had been victims defending themselves.

Mr Milosevic also says he wants to call more than 1,600 witnesses in the 150 days allotted to his defence - including former US President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair - however correspondents say it is unlikely they will appear.

Do you think Mr Milosevic should present his own defence? Do you think the trial is the best way to administer justice? How important do you think it is for those who lived through the wars? Send us your comments.


This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

What is all this talk about health factor being the reason for the imposition of a Defence Lawyer on Milosevic? Who is afraid of what the man has to say? For justice's sake, let the man talk. Let him open the can of worms. No need to hurry in this trial, lest some truths that need to be revealed are hidden. One more thing please, whosoever Milosevic wishes to call as a witness must be compelled to come no matter how highly placed such persons are. If Milosevic could be brought to the court for trial, then anyone he fingered as being involved in the crimes he is being accused of should be made to come to court. Let the truth be told, the whole truth please.
Yisa A. J, Aba, Nigeria

The man should be allowed to represent himself
Mark, Mansfield, TX, USA
The man should be allowed to represent himself. This is allowed in U.S. courts, even though it is never a good idea. In the end this is "Victors" justice. I believe this court is not neutral and has a Western bias. Only people who have lived through the wars can answer a question concerning the importance of this trial.
Mark, Mansfield, TX, USA

The approach Mr Milosevic took in his defence is the only credible one. He has never denied having contacts with Bosnian and Croatian Serbs. His argument is that the nature and purpose of those contacts were different to those imputed by the prosecution. To demonstrate this he had to fill in the broader historical context of the Balkan wars, in order to argue that (1) the Serbs actions were defensive (2) that many of the allegations of atrocities by Serbs are in fact malicious propaganda by hostile factions and (3) the Yugoslav authorities acted properly to curb or punish excesses by their forces. All this is a perfectly logical argument. To know whether it stands up, we need to hear the defence evidence. I hope that the appointment of defence lawyers does not disrupt the presentation of the defence case on the lines outlined by Milosevic in his opening statement.
Colin Meade, London , UK

The trial of Mr. Milosevic should be televised so that we could see with pour own eyes what Mrs Del Ponte has invented and we could have a good laugh. Mr Milosevic has been sentenced in the white house and the trial in The Hague is just theatre,
Aanteo Sergovich, Istria, Croatia

As someone who has read the transcripts and followed the so called "trial" I can say it's been a farce from the beginning. The same NATO countries that pushed for the break up and then bombed Yugoslavia illegally in 1999, finance and control the tribunal. The press presents a highly distorted view as it has ever since the early 1990s. Anonymous and unreliable witnesses, hearsay accusations, closed sessions and hostile judges (who frequently cut off Milosevic's microphone and limit his cross-examination time) are the norm. The prosecution got far more time to present its case and even so they came up with nothing. Now they won't even let him present his own defence, a universally recognized right. A real tribunal would charge those NATO leaders who bombed Yugoslavia, who have lied to us for so long and who continue to lie as brazenly as ever with the assistance of the press.
Dimitri Oram, Massachusetts, USA

The more war criminals are tried the better,
Peer van Swigchem, Amsterdam, Netherlands
So Mr Milosevic wants us to believe he was forced to go to war? That is a laugh. His country was not attacked and unless in self-defence the person who pulls the trigger (or orders the trigger to be pulled) is guilty. Any attempt to make it look otherwise is deception and deceit. As to atrocities and genocide: there can never be any excuse for these acts. Who would not have liked to see Adolf Hitler tried? The more war criminals are tried the better, and the higher in the chain of command they were, the better, whether they are Serb, Croat, Bosnian, Iraqi, Israeli, American or Dutch. If their own people want to try them - as will probably happen to Saddam Hussein - so much the better. If that is not possible, I am proud the Former-Yugoslavia Tribunal and the International Court of Justice are located in my country. I just hope that one day Mr Pinochet, too, will face justice here.
Peer van Swigchem, Amsterdam, Netherlands

It amazes me how many people here support Milosevic, but most of them seem to be in Serbia or Greece, or have Serbian or Greek names. Perhaps the "Western" media is not the biased party?
Matthew, San Francisco, USA

There must be questionable doubt as to the extent to which Slobodan Milosevic can be held accountable for the disintegration of Yugoslavia and for the Balkan Wars. He had a significant role in those events, but he also had some active and willing accomplices - his opponents as well as his supporters in Croatia and in Bosnia. However, there is little doubt that he was responsible for the destruction of the Serbian economy, for the savings of ordinary Serbs and for the downfall of the business and economic structure. He was also responsible for allowing criminals to gain a powerful role in society. The correct court for Mr Milosevic is in Belgrade, the correct charge - abuse of power and breaches of the banking laws.
Tony O'Rourke, Stirling, Scotland

Milosevic is one, but one only, of the monster rulers
Mikko Toivonen, Helsinki, Finland
Milosevic was just doing his job as president of Yugoslavia, if others in other countries did not like the way he was doing it then tough luck to them. It is only because some countries are more powerful than others that we do not have their presidents going to The Hague.
Anonymous

Separate to my dislike of the man he is guilty of defending his ambitions just like the now deceased leaders of Croatia and Bosnia. They all share equal responsibility. Until you prosecute all the Croats and Bosnjaks of the same crimes they committed, send him to Belgrade to be tried under Serbian law for corruption and fraud. Behind that this trial is a farce.
Goran, Perth, Australia

I think the world has seen and heard enough evidence to find Slobodan Milosevic guilty on all counts.
Aasim Z Khan, Lahore, Pakistan

Milosevic is guilty, but he is guilty against Serbian population. He should be on trial in Serbia.
Aleksander, Chicago, Illinois, USA

I would like to know how can people that has never been to Yugoslavia express such derogatory opinions on Mr Milosevic. If their judgement is based on the Western media than they are wrong. Milosevic is one of the last honest politicians of the 20th century.
Anteo Sergovich, Istria, Croatia

Milosevic is getting the chance to 'defend himself' but his victims had no chance to say goodbye to their family before being shot, solely because they had a certain ethnicity. Yet, even though he is being treated way better than he treated the victims, I hope that at last he will be punished for his crimes. While he keeps talking about persecuted Serbs, the mass graves that are still being found in Serbia and Bosnia, are not turning out to be of Serbs, but of Albanians and Bosnians. Nothing speaks better than the facts. As someone who grew up in Kosovo during Milosevic's regime I am appalled at some people's description of Milosevic's policies in ex-Yugoslavia. He wasn't protecting his country: he was committing ethnic cleansing against Kosovo's citizens who simply wanted to live in freedom (ie speak their own language, obtain an education and have the opportunity to work as equal citizens). The way he responded to Kosovars' requests made it impossible for Kosovo people to accept living with Serbs again (at least not in the near future).
Zana Blaku, New York, NY

Slobodan is a real joke. He cannot go away from his horrible crimes, which destroyed the former Yugoslavia. By his rule millions of lives were destroyed. While sitting in power, he surrounded himself with the organised crime which used Serbia as home base for their activities around the world. Now, it is time for this guy to eat his own sins.
Jan Andersson, Stockholm, Sweden

Milosevic is one, but one only, of the monster rulers. Many of them are still in power. Like in the Pinochet case people should be happy that he is out of the office and unable to do those things that he very obviously did whilst in power. For me it is enough. No further revenge needed. Bury the history and concentrate all powers for building the better future.
Mikko Toivonen, Helsinki, Finland

The argument that this is done for the sake of his health is truly laughable
Pythagoras Crotoniatis, Athens

From a political perspective, Milosevic is quite right to point fingers for the disintegration of Yugoslavia at certain western political and financial players, as well as at Islamists and Kosovo Albanian organized criminals-turned-nationalists. From a criminal perspective, he obviously had no interest in promoting war crimes and, in fact, the evidence presented so far show that he insisted on strict application of the law against perpetrators under his command. For anyone with common sense, the attempt to impose a lawyer on Milosevic is an obvious attempt to silence him. The argument that this is done for the sake of his health is truly laughable.
Pythagoras Crotoniatis, Athens, Greece

As a Serb myself, I feel no pity for Milosevic. He is a man that has helped only gangsters and corrupt politicians. But I don't blame him particularly for everything that has happened in the Balkans. Despite the accusations Serbia-Montenegro without Kosovo has close to 20 percent ethnic minority population who are non-Serbs. Compared to less then 3 percent of what Croatia and Slovenia have, they are almost ethnically pure. The sobering facts are that Serbs make up the largest amount of displaced refugees - close to one million and counting. Dozens of concentration camps full of Serbs did exist and many Serbs are still suffering in Kosovo ghettos in this fair land we call Europe.
John Plavsic, Chicago, USA

Let's be honest for a moment, the break up of Yugoslavia couldn't have been stopped
Djordje, Belgrade, Serbia

To doubt Milosevic's involvement in the break up of Yugoslavia is immoral and shameful. To believe that Milosevic was the only one who should be blamed for the break up is a deliberate try to ignore the reality, it is ignorant, arrogant and above all disrespectful to all those people who died during the 90s. Things are quite simple when it comes to sharing the responsibility; the West and nationalists, including Serbs, Croats, Moslems (Bosnians) etc, both those living inside Yugoslavia and those in Diaspora, are to blame.

But above all of this I put people's stupidity as the main cause of the bloodshed. You can make the war - as that is something I cannot stop, and as history has shown, the people cannot stop it, as it is not the people who begin wars in the first place - but you cannot make me kill my first neighbour and rape his child, and that's what we did to each other. Let's be honest for a moment, the break up of Yugoslavia couldn't have been stopped. Former Yugoslavia existed for half a century for only one reason; it was held together by Josip Broz Tito and communists. Hadn't it been for them, Yugoslavia would have broken up long time ago.

The West, of course, wanted to see the end of Communism in Yugoslavia, and the fall of the Soviet Union was the perfect timing. Milosevic and rest of the gang were the perfect associates for such a task. The West didn't want to see the bloodshed, just the end of Communism. They were; however, ready to have Yugoslavia break up if that was what it took to end communism. They should have known better. We the people should have known better!
Djordje, Belgrade, Serbia

Milosevic is guilty of one thing and that is patriotism. He loved and cherished Yugoslavia and wanted to follow in the steps of the mighty Tito but failed where Tito succeed by not being able to down-play nationalism. Milosevic should not solely be held responsible for the destruction of Yugoslavia, since he is the last leader living. Serb sufferings were not internationally broadcast because the West needed a scapegoat and reason to intervene. Perhaps to test their new weapons.
Chris Milanovic, Toronto, Canada

This is nothing but a slimy try to silence Milosevic
Nathalie Caron, Ottawa

If he is good enough to stand the trial he is good enough to defend himself. I find it biased that the judges allowed the prosecution three days to present their case and Milosevic only four hours. Besides if rest is what the doctor ordered, any patient has an absolute right to refuse treatment and no court has a right to impose treatment on the patient. Unless ICTY is re-writing doctor/patient ethics. This is nothing but a slimy try to silence Milosevic. If ICTY and Del Ponte are so right, why are they afraid of Milosevic talking? Let me put it in simple terms - if Del Ponte had a case it would not have taken her two years to present it.
Nathalie Caron, Ottawa, Canada

Mr Milosevic should present his defence any way he sees fit. What other mean is there to "administer justice" but trial? Outright execution?! This trial is of great importance. Should anyone care to meticulously go through arguments will find out that Mr Milosevic wanted to preserve one country, Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.

He can be tried and found guilty (like other leaders of respective constituent republics) for failing to protect and preserve Yugoslavia. He can be tried and found guilty for using criminals along the way. But, as one Croatian general (who did the same on the Croatian side) once said: Sorry, but we ran out of Samaritans. But accusing Mr Milosevic for the claps of former Yugoslavia, and for subsequent wars that were predicted long before they happened even by the CIA is preposterous. The break-up of Yugoslavia was "Devide et Impera" plain and simple.
Neminon, Slovenia

Most books on the wars in former Yugoslavia are blatantly bias and anti-Serb - they omit and ignore crucial facts. Hearing Milosevic's side of the story may help contribute in establishing a clear an unbiased picture of what actually happened.
Harry Hayball, London, England

If a president cannot use force to defend the internationally recognised borders of his country, then who can? When there is no law, lawlessness rules!
Gordana Vuk, Los Angeles, USA

This trial has become a joke! Milosevic will be dead long before a verdict is reached, if ever. Europe; we did things your way. Have a good look. Congratulations.
Chris Irvine, USA

It's sad but Milosevic's claim that Serbs were only "defending themselves" is actually a widely held belief in Serbia. They had every right to fear living under a Croat/Muslims majority with no rights yet Milosevic's fear mongering led to horrific atrocities that made Serbia the aggressor. Too many people in Serbia remain in denial.
Jan Burton, Toronto, Canada

Milosevic is so far out of touch with reality, that his mental capacity should be tested. If you ask me, his place in history will be right there beside people like Stalin, Hitler, and the like. Talk about living in denial. I genuinely hope that he gets what is coming to him.
GG, Vancouver, WA, USA




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