Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is refusing to consent to a new judge for his war crimes trial. The judge who presided in the case during the past two years resigned last month due to ill health. The trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague will most likely go on.
Back in court after more than a month's break, Slobodan Milosevic looked fit and was his usual defiant self. The tribunal's president, Judge Theodor Meron, wanted Mr. Milosevic to answer one very specific question: Does he consent to the continuation of his trial with a substitute judge?
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Milosevic gave the same answer he has many times before since the start of his trial.
"Mr. Meron, you know full well, I believe, I hope, that I consider this tribunal of yours to be illegal, because it is not based on the charter of the United Nations," he said. "Of course, I have no intention of declaring my views on your administrative issues. As a matter of fact, I consider this so-called Tribunal to be a means of war against my country, which is still going on."
The judge then interrupted Mr. Milosevic, telling the former president his views on the legitimacy of the court are irrelevant.
The tribunal will now have to decide whether to continue with a new judge, or start the trial, which is already in its second year, from the beginning. Most observers believe the case will continue, resuming June eighth with Mr. Milosevic's defense.
Meanwhile, Mr. Milosevic told the court he needs more than the 90 days given to him to prepare his defense and more than the 150 days allotted him to present it. He also asked, once again, to be set free, saying he is unable to prepare his case from behind bars.
"It is not my intention to disappear, but to win against this false prosecution," he said.
The former Yugoslav president has been given access to an office in his prison to help him prepare his case.