Balkans: Milosevic in the Dock at Last for a Date with History ; Former President Is Finally in Court to Face Charges of Crimes against Humanity as Conflict Deepens in Last of the Yugoslav Republics

Article excerpt

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC will face his accusers today when the former Yugoslav president enters the UN courtroom in The Hague to answer charges of orchestrating the mass killings of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Mr Milosevic met with two of his lawyers in The Hague yesterday to prepare for his defence which is expected to attempt to turn the tables on Nato and place the Western alliance in the dock for its 1999 bombing of the Serbian province.

But as of last night he had not signed any power of attorney, raising the possibility that he may formally refuse to recognise the court at his appearance this morning.

The meeting with the lawyers took place five hours behind schedule, after one of Mr Milosevic's suitcases, containing clothes that he needed for today's court appearance, went missing at Amsterdam airport.

The pair, Zdenko Tomanovic and Dragan Krgovic, had brought books, clothes and money he had requested since his transfer on Thursday from Belgrade to the Scheveningen detention centre.

Belgrade newspapers reported that Mr Milosevic and his wife Mira Markovic were considering expanding their defence team to include foreign defence attorneys.

A former US attorney general under Jimmy Carter, Ramsay Clark, confirmed in The Hague that he was willing to defend the former Yugoslav strongman. But "if he [Milosevic] followed my sense of it he would have proud and effective Yugoslav lawyers stand up before that court and say to the world `we are capable of defending ourselves'," he added.

Mr Clark, who is sympathetic to the Serb hardline nationalists, believes the UN lacked the authority to establish the war crimes tribunal that is to judge Mr Milosevic. Like Mr Milosevic, he argues that the court, which was set up by the UN Security Council in 1993, is a political institution.

Mr Clark belongs to an international committee of lawyers set up to defend Mr Milosevic which was formed on 24 March, a week before the Mr Milosevic's arrest in Belgrade.

The committee, which aims to clear the ex-president's name over the war crimes indictment, is chaired by the Bulgarian MP Velko Valkanov, and claims members from 20 countries, including the writer Harold Pinter. …