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Milosevic Trial: Opening Arguments Continue - 2002-02-13

In The Hague, the prosecution at the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is continuing its opening arguments that the former Balkan strongman orchestrated a decade of atrocities in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo as part of his quest for power. As soon as the prosecutors finish, Mr. Milosevic will get a chance to give his version of the events that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.

It is day two of Europe's biggest war crimes trial since top Nazi leaders were tried at Nuremberg after the second world war. Mr. Milosevic is the first former head of state to be tried for war crimes.

He is charged with 66 separate counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes for what prosecutors call his "command responsibility" while he led Serbia, and then Yugoslavia, in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Geoffrey Nice, the prosecuting attorney who will try the case against Mr. Milosevic, is continuing his argument that Mr. Milosevic was ultimately responsible for the actions of Serb forces in those conflicts. Geoffrey Nice, the prosecuting attorney, is continuing his argument that Mr. Milosevic was ultimately responsible for the actions of Serb forces in those conflicts.

On Wednesday, he showed the chamber videotape of emaciated inmates at prison camps in Bosnia, where he says non-Serb detainees were murdered, tortured and raped.

Mr. Nice also referred to the three-year shelling by Serb forces of the Bosnian capital. "The siege of Sarajevo - that's what it was popularly known as - was an episode, it may be decided, of such notoriety in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia that we must go back to World War II to find a parallel in European historym" said prosecutor Nice. "Not since then had a professional army conducted a campaign of unrelenting violence against the civilians of a European city, so as to reduce them to a state of medieval deprivation, in which they were in constant fear of death."

Mr. Milosevic will get his chance to defend himself, after the prosecution concludes its opening arguments. He refuses to recognize the legitimacy of either the United Nations tribunal or the charges against him. And, since he has not appointed a defense attorney, he will speak on his own behalf.

The former Yugoslav leader is expected to say that he was defending the Serbian people. He is also expected to argue that he was not the warmonger prosecutors portray, but a peace partner of the West, who helped forge the Dayton agreement that ended the Bosnian war.