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Milosevic Scorns UN Tribunal - 2001-10-30

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic made his third court appearance at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal Monday, and it proved just as confrontational as his first two. He faced expanded charges relating to alleged crimes against humanity in Kosovo, and was also asked to answer to similar crimes allegedly committed in Croatia. The former president once again refused to participate in the proceedings.

It was a long day in court for Slobodan Milosevic, who appeared as defiant as ever in his third public appearance. He refused to defend himself in the court he calls illegal. But three lawyers appointed by judges to ensure a fair trial took up his past arguments, telling judges Mr. Milosevic's transfer to The Hague was illegal, questioning the jurisdiction of the tribunal itself, and saying prosecutors only charged the former president because of political pressure. It's a charge prosecutors deny, saying this court was set up to try those most responsible for war crimes in the Balkans -- heads of state first and foremost.

As for Slobodan Milosevic, when it came his time to speak, he once again stated his refusal to take part in a judicial proceeding he doesn't recognize. Speaking in Serbo-Croatian, he said the three lawyers who the judges appointed to advise the court cannot speak for him. Indeed, Mr. Milosevic says there are now two parties working for the same side - something he dubbed Hague Fair play. Mr. Milosevic says he was acting in his country's self-defense against terrorism and criminal aggression associated with the Clinton administration. Millions of people know the truth, he said, which can't be sunk by a flood of false accusations.

But judges had the new Kosovo charges read out to him anyway. Mr. Milosevic took off his suit jacket and listened for the two hours it took to read out the indictment. "By June 1999, more than 800,000 Kosovo Albanians, about one-third of the entire Kosovo Albanian population, had been expelled from Kosovo," said the court officer. "Thousands more were believed to be internally displaced. An unknown number of Kosovo Albanians were killed in the operations conducted by Yugoslav forces in Serbia."

This could be the first time that he's heard the specific charges against him, since he has refused to accept his indictment. Prosecutors say Mr. Milosevic headed a joint criminal enterprise to rid Kosovo of its Albanian population and ensure Serbian control over the province -- an enterprise they say included the deportation of 800,000 people and the murder of hundreds of others.

The expanded Kosovo indictment charges Mr. Milosevic with an additional count of crimes against humanity, includes new charges of sexual assault against women, and links some of the murders in Kosovo to the bodies found recently in mass graves near Belgrade.

When it came time to enter a plea to the new charges, Mr. Milosevic, once again, refused. In a now familiar scene, he and judge Richard May fought it out in court. A shouting Slobodan Milosevic called the charges false and, after refusing to enter a plea, Judge May, who cut off Mr. Milosevic's microphone and told him to be quiet, entered a not guilty one for him.

Then the Croatian indictment was read out, and Mr. Milosevic once again listened as prosecutors charged him with 32 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Croatia in the early 1990s - including extermination, persecution, and murder. Once again, Mr. Milosevic refused to answer to the charges, and Judge May entered not guilty pleas for him, abruptly ending the day's session by again cutting off the former president's microphone.

Chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte then approached Milosevic, but he ignored her. All sides will be back in court Tuesday to discuss the logistics of the trial itself, which is expected to begin sometime next year.