Trial of Slobodan Milošević

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The war crimes trial of Slobodan Milošević , the former President of Yugoslavia, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) lasted from February 2002 until his death in March 2006. Milošević faced 66 counts of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Slobodan Milošević Yugoslavian and Serbian politician

Slobodan Milošević was a Yugoslav politician and the President of Serbia from 1989 to 1997 and President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. He also led the Socialist Party of Serbia from its foundation in 1990. He rose to power as Serbian President after he and his supporters claimed the need to reform the 1974 Constitution of Yugoslavia due to both the marginalization of Serbia and its political incapacity to deter Albanian separatist unrest in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia UN ad hoc court located in The Hague, Netherlands

The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, more commonly referred to as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), was a body of the United Nations established to prosecute serious crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars, and to try their perpetrators. The tribunal was an ad hoc court located in The Hague, Netherlands.

On 11 March 2006, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević died in his prison cell of a heart attack, while being tried for war crimes at the ICTY in The Hague, which was a major news story internationally. Milošević died a few months before the verdict was due for his four-year trial. It occurred shortly after the Tribunal rejected his request to seek specialized medical treatment at a cardiology clinic in Moscow, but the report of 30 May 2006 confirmed that he had died of natural causes and that there was "no poison or other chemical substance found in his body that contributed to the death".


In a judgment issued on 24 March 2016 in the separate trial of Radovan Karadžić, the ICTY said there was insufficient evidence in that case that Milošević had supported plans to expel non-Serbs from Serb-held territory in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war. [1]

The Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadžić was a case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, concerning crimes allegedly committed during the Bosnian War by Radovan Karadžić, the former President of Republika Srpska. On 24 March 2016 he was found guilty of 10 of 11 counts of crime including war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment.

Bosnian War international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995

The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. Following a number of violent incidents in early 1992, the war is commonly viewed as having started on 6 April 1992. The war ended on 14 December 1995. The main belligerents were the forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and those of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and Herzeg-Bosnia, which were led and supplied by Serbia and Croatia, respectively.


Milošević was indicted in May 1999, during the Kosovo War, by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for crimes against humanity in Kosovo. Charges of violating the laws or customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in Croatia and Bosnia and genocide in Bosnia were added a year and a half later.

Kosovo War 1990s armed conflict in Kosovo

The Kosovo War was an armed conflict in Kosovo that started in late February 1998 and lasted until 11 June 1999. It was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which controlled Kosovo before the war, and the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) from 24 March 1999, and ground support from the Albanian army.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.

Crimes against humanity deliberate attack against civilians

Crimes against humanity are certain acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population. The first prosecution for crimes against humanity took place at the Nuremberg trials. Crimes against humanity have since been prosecuted by other international courts as well as in domestic prosecutions. The law of crimes against humanity has primarily developed through the evolution of customary international law. Crimes against humanity are not codified in an international convention, although there is currently an international effort to establish such a treaty, led by the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative.

The charges on which Milošević was indicted were: genocide; complicity in genocide; deportation; murder; persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; inhumane acts/forcible transfer; extermination; imprisonment; torture; willful killing; unlawful confinement; willfully causing great suffering; unlawful deportation or transfer; extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; cruel treatment; plunder of public or private property; attacks on civilians; destruction or willful damage done to historic monuments and institutions dedicated to education or religion; unlawful attacks on civilian objects. [2] [3]

The trial

Duration of trial

Following Milošević's transfer, the original charges of war crimes in Kosovo were upgraded by adding charges of genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia. On 30 January 2002, Milošević accused the war crimes tribunal of an "evil and hostile attack" against him. The trial began at The Hague on 12 February 2002, with Milošević defending himself.

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands.

Rade Marković stated that a written statement he had made implicating Milošević had been extracted from him by ill-treatment legally amounting to torture by named NATO officers [4] Judge May declared this to be "irrelevant", but Milošević stated that it was forbidden under the 1988 rules concerning evidence gained by torture.

Torture intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering upon a person or an animal, in order to punish or to coerce, or for sheer cruelty

Torture is the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological suffering on someone by another as a punishment or in order to fulfill some desire of the torturer or force some action from the victim. Torture, by definition, is a knowing and intentional act; deeds which unknowingly or negligently inflict suffering or pain, without a specific intent to do so, are not typically considered torture. Torture has been carried out or sanctioned by individuals, groups, and states throughout history from ancient times to modern day, and forms of torture can vary greatly in duration from only a few minutes to several days or longer. Reasons for torture can include punishment, revenge, political re-education, deterrence, coercion of the victim or a third party, interrogation to extract information or a confession irrespective of whether it is false, or simply the sadistic gratification of those carrying out or observing the torture. Alternatively, some forms of torture are designed to inflict psychological pain or leave as little physical injury or evidence as possible while achieving the same psychological devastation. The torturer may or may not kill or injure the victim, but torture may result in a deliberate death and serves as a form of capital punishment. Depending on the aim, even a form of torture that is intentionally fatal may be prolonged to allow the victim to suffer as long as possible. In other cases, the torturer may be indifferent to the condition of the victim.

The prosecution took two years to present its case in the first part of the trial, where they covered the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Throughout the two-year period, the trial was being closely followed by the public of the involved former Yugoslav republics as it covered various notable events from the war and included several high-profile witnesses.

Milošević, while defending himself, read from Friedrich Naumann's book Mitteleuropa, claiming it was a long-standing objective of German foreign policy and the German liberal party in particular to "erase Serbia from the map", citing a number of alleged wrongdoings by Germany against Serbia during the last hundred years, including the recognition of Croatia and other countries. He pointed out that Klaus Kinkel, the German Foreign Minister who proposed the creation of the tribunal, was a German liberal.[ citation needed ]

During the prosecution case, 295 witnesses testified and 5,000 exhibits were presented to the court recording a mass of evidence[ citation needed ]. After the presentation of the prosecution case, the Trial Chamber, on 16 June 2004, rejected a defense motion to dismiss the charges for lack of evidence and ruled in accordance with Rule 98bis, that the prosecution case contains evidence capable of supporting a conviction on all 66 counts. The Defense was given the same amount of time as the prosecution to present its case. There were in total 466 hearing days, four hours per day. 40 hours were left in the Defense case, and the trial was on schedule to end by the end of the spring.

The prosecution was directed by the trial chamber to conclude its Kosovo case during four and a half to five months time span to make way for the presentation in September 2002 of the Bosnia and Croatia cases, followed by a defense case if Milošević wanted to do so. [5] Initially the length of the trial was presumed to go for two years and instead lasted four that contained multiple adjournments which ended with Milošević's death prior to his defense case being completed. [5]

Kosovo Conflict case

Milošević was indicted for crimes during the Kosovo war, charged with violating international humanitarian law on five counts during 1 January-20 June 1999. [6] The first charge was Deportation (a crime against humanity). [6] The prosecution stated in their case against Milošević that he was part of a criminal enterprise and involved in orchestrating a campaign of violence and terror to force a sizable part of the Kosovo Albanian population to leave and maintain Serb control over Kosovo. [6] The second charge was Other inhumane Acts - Forcible transfer (a crime against humanity), which is similar to the charge of deportation though additionally implying use of force encompassing internal displacement. [6] The third and forth charge entailed Murder (combined in this instance as a crime against humanity and violating the customs and laws of war). [6] Six hundred Kosovars were identified in the indictment as being killed in sixteen individual incidents during mass expulsion. [6] In addition based upon the exhumations of mass graves and the number of missing persons, human rights organisations estimated around ten thousand Kosovars being killed during hostilities, with KLA combatants only forming a small minority of the deceased. [6] Also counted were unarmed combatants killed in violation of the ICTY statute and Geneva Conventions. [6] The fifth charge was Persecutions (a crime against humanity). [6] The indictment referred to Milošević using mass forced population deportation and transfer, sexual assault, murder, along with damage or destruction of Kosovo Albanian religious sites "to execute a campaign of persecution against the Kosovo Albanian based on political, racial or religious grounds". [6]

The ICTY indictment against Milošević referred to methods of persecution done against Kosovo Albanians to "wreak systematic and wanton destruction and damage to their religious sites and cultural monuments". [7] The prosecution in the trial sought to prove Milošević guilty of those actions and events. [7] In his defense, Milošević asserted that Kosovo Albanian heritage sites, in addition to Serb Orthodox historical and religious monuments were damaged by NATO bombing. [8] Yugoslav Serb authorities in several cases alleged that NATO destroyed monuments, however the investigative team led by András Riedlmayer found them intact like two Ottoman bridges and the Sinan Pasha Mosque. [8] Investigators absolved NATO of responsibility except for damage to a village mosque roof and a disused Catholic church damaged through an air blast after an nearby army base was struck by a missile. [8] Riedlmayer's report to the Milošević trial concluded that kulla dwellings and a third of mosques were subjected to damage and destruction, with three Ottoman period urban centres being devastated due to intentionally lit fires. [8] The report also noted that the Yugoslav Serb army, paramilitary and police forces and in some instances Serb civilians did those attacks, according to eyewitness accounts. [8] Riedlmayer found out that Yugoslav Serb forces used as bases of operation two Catholic churches which in international law was prohibited. [8] The investigative team noted that destruction and damage of Kosovo Albanian heritage sites were done during the 1999 war through ground attack and not air strikes. [8]

Charges relating to crimes against humanity, the prosecution had to prove that armed conflict occurred, systematic and widespread attack existed, the conduct of Milošević was related to systematic and widespread attack upon a civilian population and that he was aware of the wider situation where his conduct happened. [9] The prosecution also had to prove that Milošević had the necessary state of mind for crimes that were wilful, intentional or having a disregard of consequences for human life by actions committed by himself or his subordinates. [5] Apart from the need to prove intent for committing the crime of persecution, the prosecution had to demonstrate that those actions were undertaken with intent toward discriminating on religious, political and racial grounds. [5] Within the context of Milošević as an individual, charges against him related to individual and command responsibility. [5] In the case against Milošević, he was accused of ordering, planning, instigating alongside aiding and abetting toward planning, preparing and executing crimes, with the act of committing being in reference to participating in a criminal enterprise and not being physically responsible for crimes. [5] Milošević was also charged by the prosecutor for failure of his command responsibility and responsibility as a superior for acts done by subordinates where a superior was aware or knew that a subordinate was on the verge of violating international humanitarian law or committing war crimes; and that a superior failed to undertake measures to stop actions or punish perpetrators. [5] Command responsibility was held by Milošević the prosecution alleged due to his position along with control and power, having no regard toward his position or both. [5]

Death of Milošević

Milošević was found dead in his cell on 11 March 2006, in the UN war crimes tribunal's detention center, located in the Scheveningen section of The Hague, Netherlands. [10]

Autopsies soon established that Milošević had died of a heart attack. He had been suffering from heart problems and high blood pressure. Many suspicions were voiced to the effect that the heart attack had been caused or made possible deliberately – by the ICTY, according to sympathizers, or by himself, according to critics.

Milošević death occurred shortly after the Tribunal denied his request to seek specialized medical treatment at a cardiology clinic in Russia. [11] [12]

ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte delivered her public statement following Milošević's death:

In the indictment which was judicially confirmed in 2001, Milošević was accused of 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo between 1991 and 1999. These crimes affected hundreds of thousands of victims throughout the former Yugoslavia.

Due to Milošević's death during the trial, the court returned no verdict on the charges.

On 24 March 2016, the ICTY issued its judgement in the separate case against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, in which it concluded that insufficient evidence had been presented in that case to find that Slobodan Milosevic "agreed with the common plan" to create territories ethnically cleansed of non-Serbs during the Bosnian War of 1992 to 1995. The judgement noted "Milošević's repeated criticism and disapproval of the policies and decisions made by [Karadžić] and the Bosnian Serb leadership" and, in a footnote, the "apparent discord between [Karadžić] and Milošević" during which Milošević "openly criticised Bosnian Serb leaders of committing 'crimes against humanity' and 'ethnic cleansing' and the war for their own purposes." Nevertheless, the court also noted that "Milošević provided assistance in the form of personnel, provisions, and arms to the Bosnian Serbs during the conflict". [13]



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  1. "Public Redacted Version of Judgement Issued on 24 March 2016 in Prosecutor vs. Radovan Karadžić, p. 1303" (PDF). ICTY. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  3. "TPIY : The Cases". ICTY. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  4. "020726IT". Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Armatta 2010 , p.  27
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Armatta 2010 , p.  26
  7. 1 2 Armatta 2010 , p. 92. "One of the methods used to persecute the Kosovar population was to wreak systematic and wanton destruction and damage to their religious sites and cultural monuments, according to the indictment. Such destruction committed on political, racial, or religious grounds is a crime against humanity. Through the testimony of Andras Riedlmayer, an international expert on the Balkan cultural heritage of the Ottoman era, the prosecution sought to prove Milosevic guilty of it."
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Armatta 2010 , pp. 93-94 "Riedlmayer, associated with Harvard University, provided a report of his investigations of war damage to cultural and religious sites in Kosova. Based on a two-year study that he undertook with the architect and Balkan specialist Andrew Herscher between July 1999 and the summer of 2001, sponsored by Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the report concluded that three out of four urban centers dating to the Ottoman years were devastated as a result of intentionally set fires. Serbian police, army troops, paramilitaries, and in some cases Serb civilians perpetrated these attacks, according to eyewitnesses. In addition, traditional Albanian residential buildings, called kullas, were targeted for destruction. Over one-third of all mosques in Kosova were damaged or destroyed. While Milosevic asserted that NATO bombardment was responsible for damage to Kosova Albanian heritage sites as well as for damage and destruction to Serbian Orthodox religious and historical monuments, Riedlmayer’s study absolved NATO of responsibility for all but damage to the roof of one village mosque and to a disused Catholic church, damaged by an air blast during a missile strike on a nearby army base. In several cases where Serb authorities alleged complete destruction of monuments by NATO (such as the Sinan Pasha Mosque and two Ottoman bridges), investigators found the monuments completely intact. Riedlmayer described how investigators reached their conclusions that damage was not caused by air strikes.... Throughout the province, Riedlmayer and his co-investigators found damage and destruction of Kosova Albanian cultural heritage sites from ground attack during the war and what appeared to be Kosovar attacks against Serbian cultural heritage sites after the war. He also learned that Serbian forces used two Catholic churches as bases of operation, which was prohibited by international law. Riedlmayer later testified to similar destruction of Islamic religious and cultural sites during the Bosnian war."
  9. Armatta 2010 , pp. 26-27
  10. "Europe | Milosevic found dead in his cell". BBC News. 11 March 2006. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  11. "Report to the President Death of Slobodan Milosevic". ICTY, May 2006. Pg. 4 para. 3
  12. Decision on Assigned Counsel Request for Provisional Release. ICTY, 23 February 2006.
  13. "Public Redacted Version of Judgement Issued on 24 March 2016 in Prosecutor vs. Radovan Karadžić, p. 1303" (PDF). ICTY. Retrieved 20 July 2016.