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Milosevic Trial Resumes Thursday - 2002-09-25

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic resumes Thursday with prosecutors making their case that he is responsible for crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Croatia. Prosecutors recently finished presenting their Kosovo case against Mr. Milosevic.

After a two-week break, Slobodan Milosevic will be back in court to hear prosecutors outline their case against him concerning Croatia and Bosnia.

The charges cover crimes committed during a half-decade of bloodshed in the Balkans in the early to mid-1990s, when what used to be the country of Yugoslavia was breaking up.

Prosecutors say at the time, Mr. Milosevic, as president of Serbia, headed a joint criminal enterprise. Its goal, they say, was to ethnically cleanse parts of neighboring Croatia and Bosnia of its non-Serbs in order to create a larger Serb-dominated state.

In Croatia, prosecutors say that plan led to the murder of almost 700 non-Serbs and the ethnic cleansing of about one-third of the country. They have charged Mr. Milosevic with 32 counts, including extermination, persecution, and murder.

But in Bosnia, prosecutors say the plan sometimes led to genocide. They cite the murder of thousands of Muslim men after the fall of Srebrenica and the imprisonment and murder of thousands more in Bosnia's prison camps.

In order to prove genocide, prosecutors will have to show that Mr. Milosevic intended to destroy a part of, or the entire, Bosnian-Muslim community.

Prosecutors say they will present evidence to show that Milosevic funded the Bosnian Serbs. And they intend to call at least one witness from the municipality of Brcko who was allegedly told by his Serb interrogators that they had orders to kill all but three to four-percent of Brcko's Muslims.

Prosecutors say, at the very least, Mr. Milosevic knew about these genocidal acts, which makes him culpable.

Judith Armatta of the non-profit group Coalition for International Justice says these charges will be harder to prove than the Kosovo ones. She points out that Mr. Milosevic was not the actual leader of the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, who were seeking to break away from those two newly created states.

"He was not head of the armies there, he did not have the de jure, by law, responsibility. So they will have to prove de facto that he was behind scenes and joined with the people who did have de jure authority there," she said.

Prosecutors say they are confident. They plan to call 177 witnesses before their case ends in mid-May of next year.

Then it will be Mr. Milosevic's turn to present his case. During the seven months of trial, he has maintained his innocence, saying he was just defending his country.

It is an argument that will likely be heard again Thursday, when Slobodan Milosevic gets his second chance to make an opening statement.