"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

When Kangaroo Trials Go Wrong, Take Heed Hussein

"The tribunal has killed my husband."

Milosevic Found Dead in Cell

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been found dead in his cell in The Hague, Netherlands where he was being tried on war cimes charges, according to the United Nations war crimes tribunal. He was 64.
An official in the chief prosecutor's office said Milosevic was found at about 10 a.m. Saturday and that he apparently had been dead for several hours. An autopsy will be performed, the official said.

Referring to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, his widow, Mirjana, told CNN: "The tribunal has killed my husband."

The tribunal did not say how Milosevic had died. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters Milosevic had died of natural causes.

"Milosevic was found lifeless on his bed in his cell at the United Nations detention unit," the U.N. tribunal said in a statement.

"The guard immediately alerted the detention unit officer in command and the medical officer. The latter confirmed that Slobodan Milosevic was dead."

The tribunal said Dutch police and coroners were called in and started an inquiry. Milosevic's family has been informed, it added.

The former Serbian president had been on trial since 2002 on 66 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes during the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

He had been held at the Hague since 2001 when he was transferred from the Serbian capital Belgrade following his overthrow in 2000.

Milosevic had suffered a heart condition and high blood pressure which had repeatedly interrupted his trial in the Hague.

The tribunal had recently rejected Milosevic's request to travel to Russia for specialist medical treatment, CNN's Christiane Amanpour reported. Milosevic said he would appeal against the decision, saying his health was worsening.

Ethnic strife
CNN's Brent Sadler, who reported on the bloody Balkans wars of the 1990s, said there would now likely be a backlash against the trials of alleged war criminals that go on years.

"Much of Milosevic's trial was transmitted on Serbian and international television and people there haven't been allowed to forget their former president.

Politicians and the people were already divided over war crime suspects and it is going to make issue of the handover of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic an even more divisive issue."

The U.N. Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1993.

The 66 counts included Milosevic's role in the fighting that plagued the disputed Serbian province of Kosovo and the civil warfare that erupted in Bosnia and Croatia after the fall of Yugoslavia.

Ethnic strife raged in Yugoslavia's six republics as the nation began to dissolve after the fall of communism.

Milosevic was defending himself against allegations by authorities that he backed and sometimes authorized violence by Serb forces.

He faced charges of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war and genocide, a charge emanating from the Bosnian conflict, in which thousands of Bosnian Muslims were killed or chased from their homes by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica and Sarajevo.

Milosevic pleaded not guilty to all counts, saying that he wasn't responsible for ordering killings and rapes. He could have been sent to prison for life if found guilty.

The prosecution closed its case in February 2004, and Milosevic was given six months to prepare his defense, which began in August 2004.

His defense focused solely on the Kosovo indictments, seen as the most potent because Milosevic was directly in charge of the Serb-led troops during the fighting in Kosovo, a majority Albanian area key to Serbian identity.

The former Yugoslav president had called 48 witnesses to back up his arguments. He requested more time for witnesses, but was denied.

Saturday, March 11, 2006; Posted: 8:32 a.m. EST (13:32 GMT)