Milosevic: Questions remain unanswered

Slobodan Milosevic's death in his prison cell leaves unanswered questions about the his role in war crimes during conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo during the 1990's.

    Milosevic conducted his own defence at the tribunal

    The former Yugoslavian president faced numerous war crimes charges including the genocide of thousands of civilians during the conflict in Bosnia in 1992-1995.

    He was also charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war during the conflict in Croatia in 1991-1992 and the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

    The prosecution was seeking to prove exactly what Milosevic ordered and knew about war

    crimes committed during the three conflicts.

    Harrowing evidence

    The trial against Milosevic began in July 2001 in dramatic fashion with the former

    Yugoslavian leader staging a series of grandstanding courtroom displays in which he refused

    to recognise the authority of the court, to accept a lawyer or to enter a plea.

    During the prosecution's case the court heard harrowing evidence from victims of rape during

    the Kosovo conflict.

    Farmer Hail Morina told how he returned to his village in Kosovo to find buildings destroyed

    and bodies in the streets.

    Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, who committed suicide last week whilst serving a 13-year

    sentence for the persecution of non-Serbs in Croatia, said that Milosevic engineered the

    1991 uprising in the self declared Serb republic of Krajina.

    Senior US and UN military leaders told how they believed Milosevic had known about the planning of the massacre of 8000 Bosnian civilians at Srebrenica.

    But analysts believe that when the prosecution ended its case in February 2004, after 293

    trial days, 298 witnesses and 29,000 pages of evidence, that there was no 'smoking gun'

    evidence that would definitely convict the former Yugoslav leader.


    In the early part of the trial Milosevic used his legal background effectively and famously

    made Kosovan rebel leaders sweat under cross examination by him at the Hague court.

    Thousands died at Srebrenica 

    during the 1995 massacre 

    In his defence, the former Serbian Socialist Party leader described the charges against him

    as "a sum of unscrupulous manipulation, lies, crippling of the law and an unjust

    presentation of the history".

    He said the massacres that took place in Bosnia and Kosovo had been staged to discredit


    His supporters also argue that Milosevic was a victim of 'victor's justice' following the

    1999 Kosovo conflict and point out that he was embraced as a peacemaker by the West after

    the signing of the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war in 1995.

    No justice

    Milosevic had planned to call 1600 witnesses as part of his defence, including

    Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, and Bill Clinton, the former US president.

    But the trial was also much delayed by Milosevic's persisent ill health and medics warned in

    April last year that his blood pressure was "dangerously high".

    The court controversially ruled that the defendent was too ill to carry out his own defence

    and appointed two British lawyers to act for him.

    Their first act was to appeal against their own appointment and the momentum of the trial was

    depleted by a series of delays.

    Now with Milosevic gone, the victims of the wars that ripped through the Balkans following the

    break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990's will never get the justice they deserve.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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