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Dutch Court Rejects Milosevic Appeal - 2001-08-31

A Dutch court has rejected a challenge by lawyers for Slobodan Milosevic against the legality of his detention by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The Dutch court says the U.N. tribunal has the authority under both Dutch and international law to detain and try the former Yugoslav president for crimes against humanity.

It was another setback for Slobodan Milosevic. A day after the U.N. tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said she would charge him with genocide in October, a local court in The Hague has ruled that Dutch courts are not competent to hear his request for immediate release from U.N. detention because the Netherlands has transferred jurisdiction over cases involving war crimes in the former Yugoslavia to the U.N. tribunal.

Mr. Milosevic's attorneys say they will appeal the ruling to a higher Dutch court or go to the European Court of Human Rights. They argue that the former Yugoslav leader was kidnapped when he was handed over to the tribunal in late June by the reformists now governing Serbia. They also questioned the tribunal's legitimacy because it was set up in 1993 by the U.N. Security Council and not by a vote of the full U.N. General Assembly.

Lawyers for the Dutch government say the tribunal was established legally and that it is an independent and impartial court. They also argue that Mr. Milosevic recognized the authority of the tribunal when he signed the 1995 Dayton peace agreements that ended four years of fighting in the former Yugoslavia.

Judge Roel Paris sided with the Dutch government, ruling that the tribunal's jurisdiction supersedes Netherlands law in the case of Mr. Milosevic and that the U.N. court lives up to the provisions established by the European Treaty for the Protection of Human Rights.

Mr. Milosevic, who is charged by the U.N. court with responsibility for the killing of hundreds of ethnic Albanians and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people from Kosovo in 1999 during his government's crackdown on the province, made a second defiant appearance before the tribunal on Thursday.

He complained about his detention conditions and called the tribunal a political tool with no juridical legitimacy. Presiding Judge Richard May ordered him not to make political speeches and shut off his microphone before adjourning the hearing.