Slobodan Milosevic

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Slobodan Milošević
Слободан Милошевић

In office
23 July 1997 – 5 October 2000
Prime Minister Radoje Kontić
Momir Bulatović
Preceded by Zoran Lilić
Succeeded by Vojislav Koštunica

In office
8 May 1989 – 23 July 1997
Prime Minister Desimir Jevtić
Stanko Radmilović
Dragutin Zelenović
Radoman Božović
Nikola Šainović
Mirko Marjanović
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Dragan Tomić (Acting)
Milan Milutinović

Born 20 August 1941(1941-08-20)
Požarevac, Yugoslavia
Died 11 March 2006 (aged 64)
The Hague, Netherlands
Nationality Serbian
Political party Socialist Party of Serbia
Spouse(s) Mirjana Marković
Children Marija
Alma mater University of Belgrade Faculty of Law
Religion None[1] (formerly Serbian Orthodoxy

Slobodan Milošević Serbian Cyrillic: Слободан Милошевић) (Požarevac, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, August 20, 1941The Hague, The Netherlands, March 11, 2006) was President of Serbia and of Yugoslavia. He served as the President of Serbia from 1989 to 1997 and then as President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. He also led Serbia's Socialist Party from its foundation in 1990. He was from the Vasojevići Montenegrin clan.

He was one of the key figures in the Yugoslav wars during the 1990s and Kosovo War in 1999. He 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.

He conceded defeat and resigned after demonstrations, following the disputed presidential election of October 2000. Within nine months of his ousting, he was arrested by security forces in Yugoslavia on charges of corruption whilst in power, and within a very short time, was extradited to stand trial in the The Hague.

At the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Milošević conducted his own defense. He died after five years in prison with just fifty hours of testimony left before the conclusion of the trial. Milošević, who began to suffer from heart ailments, high blood pressure and diabetes after he was imprisoned, died of a heart attack.

Early life

Milošević was a Montenegrin Serb by origin, born in Požarevac (today in Serbia) during the Axis occupation. His parents separated soon after the war; his father, Svetozar Milošević, a deacon in the Serbian Orthodox Church committed suicide in 1962, and his mother, Stanislava Milošević née Koljenšić, a school teacher and also an active member of the Communist Party, hanged herself in 1974.

He went on to study law at Belgrade University, where he became the head of the ideology committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) student branch. While at the university, he befriended Ivan Stambolić, whose uncle Petar Stambolić had been a president of Serbian Executive Council (a Yugoslav equivalent to the post of prime minister). This was to prove a crucial connection for Milošević's career prospects, as Stambolić sponsored his rise through the LCY hierarchy.

On leaving university, Milošević became an economic advisor to the Mayor of Belgrade in 1960. Five years later he married Mirjana Marković, whom he had known since childhood. Marković would have some influence on her husband's political career both before and after his rise to power; she was also leader of Milošević's junior coalition partner, Yugoslav United Left in the 1990s. In 1968 he got a job at the Tehnogas company, where Stambolić was working, and became its chairman in 1973. By 1978, Stambolić's sponsorship had enabled Milošević to become the head of Beobanka, one of Yugoslavia's largest banks; his frequent trips to Paris and New York gave him the opportunity to learn English and French, both of which were to be considerable assets in his political career.

In private Milošević was patriarchal and conservative, devoted to his family and wife. His personality was marked by stubbornness—a trait of which he was proud; and his most devoted followers were older people, who had spent most of their lives in an era characterised by a moral code which they believed Milošević embodied flawlessly. His stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise may be partly credited for the political problems and wars which marked his years in power, as well as his unrelenting defence in his trial. His lifelong devotion to his wife was reflected in the place of his burial, which is under the tree where they first kissed in 1958.

Rise to power

Milošević was elected Chairman of the Belgrade City Committee of the League of Communists in April 1986, again replacing Stambolić, who had moved on to the post of head of the Serbian Communist Party. At this time Milošević publicly opposed nationalism; he prevented the publication of a book containing the works of Slobodan Jovanović, a emigré Serbian historian, law professor and nationalist politician of the first half of the twentieth century. Milošević also advocated retaining Marxism as a school subject and said that low turnout of Belgrade youth at the Communist Day of the Youth "desecrated" Tito's character and work.

Milošević emerged in April 1987 as the leading force in Serbian politics. Some international journalists have statedreference required that his political positions were nationalist, with elements of socialism and internationalism.

Later that year, in response to a protester who complained of being beaten by the Police, Milošević said "You will not be beaten"[2]

Although Milošević was only addressing a small group of people around him -- not the public,[3], Yugoslavian journalists notedreference required that a great deal of significance has been attached to his remark. Stambolić, after his reign as President, said that he had seen that day as "the end of Yugoslavia".

At the same time, Milošević's message was in accordance with an international, cornerstone principle of the LCY, which states that no ethnic group takes any precedence over another.

Meanwhile, Stambolić had become the President of Serbia. To the dismay of senior figures in the party, he supported Milošević for election as the new party leader. Stambolić spent three days advocating Milošević as leader, managing to secure him party leadership by the narrowest margin in the history of the League of Communists of Serbia (LCS) internal elections. This was arguably the biggest mistake of Stambolić's political career, one which he later regretted, as Milošević would soon topple him at the 8th Session of the League of Communists of Serbia.

Dragiša Pavlović, a Stambolić ally and Milošević's fairly liberal successor at the head of the Belgrade Committee of the party, opposed Milošević's policies towards Kosovar Serbs. Contrary to advice from Stambolić, Milošević denounced Pavlović as being soft on Albanian radicals. Milošević had prepared the ground by quietly replacing Stambolić's supporters with his own people; on 23 September and 24 September, during a thirty-hour session of the Central Committee of the LCS broadcast live on state television, Milošević had Pavlović deposed. Embarrassed and under pressure from Milošević's supporters, Stambolić resigned a few days later.

In February 1988, Stambolić's resignation was formalized, allowing Milošević to take his place as President. Twelve years later, in the summer of 2000, Stambolić was kidnapped; his body was found in 2003 and Milošević was charged with ordering his murder. In 2005, several members of the Serbian secret police and criminal gangs were convicted in Belgrade for a number of murders, including Stambolić's.

Milošević spent most of 1988/1989 focusing his politics on the "Kosovo problem". In 1988 in Belgrade, Milošević delivered an aggressive nationalistic speech, saying "At home and abroad, Serbia's enemies are massing against us. We say to them 'We are not afraid'. 'We will not flinch from battle'." [10] In his campaign against Serbia's "enemies", his supporters organized public demonstrations – the so-called "anti-bureaucratic revolution" – which led to the overthrow of the leaderships of Vojvodina (6 October, 1988), and Montenegro (10 January, 1989) resigning.[4]Azem Vllasi, leader of the League of Communists of Kosovo, was arrested for inciting rioting amid a strike by Kosovo-Albanian miners.[5]

On 28 March 1989, the National Assembly of Serbia, under Milošević's leadership, amended the Serbian constitution to greatly reduce the autonomy of its two provinces. The decision was hugely controversial, especially in Kosovo, where relations between Serbs and Albanians have a long history of tension. A harsh regime was imposed which attracted widespread criticism from international human rights organisations, transnational bodies such as the European Community and other foreign governments. This caused great alarm in the other republics of Yugoslavia, where concerns were expressed that their own autonomous status could come under threat.

As nationalism grew within Yugoslavia, Milošević sought major constitutional changes. The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution had organised the country so that Serbia's status as the largest and most populous republic was counterbalanced by the way that the other republics were represented. The socialist Yugoslavia was at the time governed by an eight-member Presidency, representing the six republics plus Kosovo and Vojvodina. By ousting the government of Montenegro and replacing it with a more compliant one, Milošević effectively secured that republic's vote for himself; likewise the abolition of the autonomous governments of Vojvodina and Kosovo ensured that he controlled those votes as well. The Presidency was thus divided down the middle between Milošević's supporters and his opponents in the other republics, with four votes for each side. The result was stalemate and an increasing paralysis of Yugoslavia's federal government.

At the 14th Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in January 1990, Milošević's Serbian delegation campaigned for major constitutional changes based on the democratic principle of "one man - one vote". Slovenian and Croatian delegations (led by Milan Kučan and Ivica Račan respectively) strongly opposed this, seeing it as an attack on their own republics' status, and left the Congress in protest. This caused a deep rift in the League of Communists and effectively put an end to the Party as a unified organisation.

With the collapse of the Yugoslav League of Communists, Milošević presided over the Serbian party's transformation into the Socialist Party of Serbia (July 1990) and the adoption of a new Serbian constitution (September 1990) providing for the direct election of a president with increased powers. Milošević was subsequently re-elected president of the Serbian Republic in the direct elections of December 1990 and December 1992.

In the first free parliamentary elections of December 1990, Milošević's Socialist Party won 80.5% of the vote. The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo largely boycotted the election, effectively eliminating even what little opposition Milošević had. Milošević himself won the presidential election with an even higher percentage of the vote. Although the elections could not have been described as wholly free and fair – Milošević controlled much of the media as well as the election system itself – there is little doubt that at this time he genuinely enjoyed mass popular support in Serbia.

Milošević's rise to power happened amidst a growth of nationalism in all the former Yugoslavian republics following the collapse of communist governments throughout eastern Europe. In 1990, Slovenians elected a nationalist government under Milan Kučan, and the Croatians did the same with Franjo Tuđman. Communist single-party rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina was replaced by an unstable coalition of three ethnically-based parties.

The Yugoslav Wars

In 1991, Stjepan Mesić (a Croat and a president of Yugoslavia at that time) declared that Yugoslavia was finished and that he fulfilled his task.

In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia seceded from the federation, followed by the republics of Macedonia (September 1991) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (March 1992). Young Yugoslav People's Army soldiers were murdered by Slovenian secessionists, who were filmed but never convicted.

Demands for a greater autonomy for nations had been proposed since 1989, and Milošević had been an early opponent of such moves. Milošević tried to organise a "Meeting of Truth" in the Slovene capital, Ljubljana, to discuss the Kosovo situation, but this proposal was rejected by Kučan. Milošević later moved towards a more pragmatic policy. He had little opposition to Slovenia leaving the country. Kučan recalled, "Milošević had said to me that we should reach some agreement on Slovenia's desire to leave Yugoslavia. He said that he would not stop us, and that the others didn't understand what the whole thing was about anyway. But he said that he cannot let Croatia go, because Croatia was bound to Serbia by blood."[6]

At this point, Milošević supported the claims of Serb populations in other states to stay in Yugoslavia, based on the ostensible premise that the large Serbian populations in Croatia (450,000) and Bosnia (1.26 million) should have the right to stay in Yugoslavia as they desired, arguing that the Yugoslav Constitution gave the right of self-determination to nations (Serbs, Croats, etc as a whole), not republics (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, etc). This Milošević position has been given only for territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, because he has refused to give right for self-determination to Albanians of Kosovo. His agreement with Slovenia was based on the self-determination of peoples; as Slovenia was ethnically homogeneous, he had little opposition to the country leaving.

Croatia's Serbs began campaigning for greater autonomy within Croatia from as early as 1990 after the election of the Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, with Milošević's full support. From the day of Croatia's independence on June 25, 1991 until early 1992 when Croatian independence was recognised by the high profile world states, Croatia was facing resistance from the Yugoslav National Army (JNA). Following their withdrawal from Croatia in 1992 came the emergence of Serb dissidents from within Croatia's borders who engaged in a war against the Croatian government with support from Milošević. The first leader of Serbs in Croatia, Milan Babić, has stated that Milošević was responsible for this and his successor Goran Hadžić publicly bragged about how he was "the extended hand of Slobodan Milošević".

War crimes prosecutors subsequently characterised the creation of the separatist so called Republic of Serbian Krajina as a "joint criminal enterprise" whose goal was "the forcible removal of the majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the approximately one-third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia that he planned to become part of a new Serb-dominated state." At the trial of Milan Babić, the ICTY found that the Serbian government was directly involved in the Croatian Serb rebellion, providing supplies, weapons, money and leadership.

In 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina was plunged into war even before its formal declaration of independence. Bosnian Serb forces soon captured as much as 70% of the country, although this was partly due to the pre-war demographics where Serbs tended to live in rural areas whilst Bosniaks were concentrated in cities. The Serb forces were generally intent on staying in Yugoslavia, and would sometimes work alongside pro-Yugoslav Bosniaks such as Fikret Abdic's army. In this period hundreds of thousands of people were compelled to leave their homes and many thousands more lost their lives , often in atrocities such as the Srebrenica and Bratunac massacre. Again, war crimes prosecutors have characterised this as a "joint criminal enterprise" in which Milošević played a leading part.[7] The ICTY likewise found that the Serbian government was directly involved in the conflict. However, no evidence was ever found that Milošević was involved in Srebrenica; there is even evidence that he was upset by it[11]. This made it more difficult for the trial to prove him guilty specifically of genocide.

By 1995, however, the ongoing wars in Croatia and Bosnia had become an unsupportable burden for Serbia. The country had experienced hyperinflation and a drastic worsening of living standards, due to an economic collapse and the effect of international sanctions. Milošević sought to force the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs to the negotiating table but was rebuffed by their nationalist leaderships. In response, despite his earlier support for their rebellions, he let it be known that they were on their own.

The Croatian War was brought to an end in August 1995 when Croatia's Operation Storm rapidly overran the Republic of Serbian Krajina. Almost the entire Croatian Serb population fled from Croatia in the process, fleeing into Bosnia and Serbia. Only a month later, the Bosnian Serbs were brought to the brink of military collapse by a combination of NATO air strikes (Operation Deliberate Force) and a joint Croatian/Bosniak ground offensive (Operation Mistral). Again, many hundreds of thousands of Serbs were forced into exile.

Milošević subsequently negotiated the Dayton Agreement in the name of the Bosnian Serbs, ending the conflict. As the agreement finally brought an end to the war in Bosnia, Milošević was credited in the West with being one of the pillars of Balkan peace. But crucially, the Dayton Agreement did not grant amnesty for the war crimes committed during the conflict – an omission on Milošević's part that was to pave the way for his eventual prosecution.

Milošević was limited to two terms as President of Serbia, but at the end of his term of office he instead stood for the hitherto relatively unimportant post of President of Yugoslavia (which by this time consisted of only Serbia and Montenegro). He won easily and assumed office on 23 July, 1997. His old post passed into the hands of Milan Milutinović, a political ally. In Montenegro, however, the pro-Milošević old guard was pushed aside by the ambitious Milo Đukanović, who became President of Montenegro and emerged as an increasingly bitter opponent of Milošević.

That same year, an armed rebellion broke out in Kosovo against Serbian aggressive rule. The separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began to launch attacks against Serbian and Yugoslav security forces as well as Serbian officials and those Serbs and others whom the KLA regarded as "collaborators". Serbian response was brutal, by mid-1999 several thousand were killed by Serbs forces and several thousand had died in escalating retaliations and 150,000 Kosovo Albanians were reported to have been made homeless.

The conflict culminated in the Kosovo War of 1999, during which over half of the province's Albanian population fled and several thousand people died. A NATO campaign of air strikes (Operation Allied Force) eventually forced Milošević to back down. The subsequent Kumanovo Agreement saw Kosovo being handed over to a United Nations protectorate along with the total withdrawal of Yugoslav forces. In the aftermath of the war, the majority of Kosovo's Serb and Roma population fled into Serbia proper, fearing or experiencing persecution by vengeful Albanians and adding to the country's already large refugee population.

This time, though, Milošević was not lionised as a peacemaker. On 27 May 1999, he was indicted by the ICTY for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kosovo. The possibility of his standing trial seemed remote at this point; despite the loss of Kosovo, he still appeared to retain popular support.

Milošević's views

A large number of Slobodan Milošević's interviews have been collected online[8]. He constantly claimed that all of his actions were lawful as according to the constitution of Yugoslaviareference required. The constitution carefully separated the notions of a "nation" and a "people". While Croatia was a nation, it contained peoples other than the Croats, including many Serbs. Milošević argued that the constitution gave self-determination to peoples, not to nations. On this basis, he states that the Croatian Serbs and later the Bosnian Serbs should not have been subject to the declarations of independence by the nations of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He denies that Serbia was at war during the wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. Milošević was President of Serbia, not of Yugoslavia, and claims that his government was only indirectly involved through support for Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia at some points. Many are skeptical about this claim or at least about his intentions for his actions. LeBor, a biographer, believes that Milošević cut off links with the Bosnian Serbs due to hyperinflation in Serbia rather than to objections over their tactics.

In Kosovo, Milošević alleges that he supported the right of the Albanians to "self-determination" but not to independence. He also claimed that the KLA were a neo-National Socialist organisation that sought an ethnically pure Kosovo, and he argued that independence would deliver Kosovo to their hands[9]. He often referred to Kosovo as an essential part of Serbia due to its history and its numerous churches and cultural relics. [Many of these have been destroyed in recent years.]

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Over the massacres of Albanians in Kosovo in 1998 , Milošević denies that he gave orders for this. He claims that they were sporadic events confined to rural areas of West Kosovo committed by paramilitaries and by rebels in the armed forces. Those from the Serbian army or police who were involved were all, he claims, arrested and many were sentenced to long prison sentences[10].

Downfall of presidency

On 4 February, 1997, Milošević recognized the opposition victories in some local elections, after mass protests lasting 96 days.

Constitutionally limited to two terms as Serbian president, on 23 July, 1997, Milošević assumed the presidency of the Yugoslav Federation (the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).

Armed actions by Albanian separatist groups and Serbian police and military counter-action in Serbia's previously autonomous (and 90% Albanian) province of Kosovo culminated in escalating warfare in 1998, NATO air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March and June 1999, and finally a full withdrawal of all Yugoslav security forces from the province.

During the Kosovo War he was indicted on 27 May, 1999, for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kosovo, and he was standing trial, up until his death, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which he asserted was illegal, having been established in contravention of the UN-charter.reference required

Milošević's rejection of claims of a first-round opposition victory in new elections for the Federal presidency in September 2000 led to mass demonstrations in Belgrade on 5 October, known as the Bulldozer Revolution. The Yugoslav constitution called for a second election round with all but the two leading candidates eliminated, in the event that no candidate won more than 50% of the vote. Official results put Koštunica ahead of Milošević but at under 50%. The regime's authority collapsed when security forces refused to put down the protests and the Milošević controlled public broadcaster, RTS was taken over. He was forced to accept this reality when commanders of the army whom he had expected to support him had indicated that in this instance they would not. On 6 October Milošević met with opposition-list leader Vojislav Koštunica and publicly accepted defeat. Koštunica finally took office as Yugoslav president on 7 October following Milošević's announcement.

Ironically, Milošević lost his grip on power by losing in elections which he scheduled prematurely (before the end of his mandate) and which he did not even need to win in order to retain power which was centred in the parliaments which his party and its associates controlled.

Following a warrant for his arrest by the Yugoslav authorities on charges of corruption and abuse of power, Milošević was forced to surrender to security forces on Saturday, 31 March, 2001 following an armed stand off at his fortified villa in Belgrade. On 28 June of the same year, Milošević was transferred by Yugoslav government officials from the jail in Belgrade where he was being held to United Nations custody just inside Bosnian territory. He was then transported to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Constitution prohibited extradition of Yugoslav citizens and President Koštunica formally on legal grounds opposed the transfer that has been ordered by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić.reference required

Relations with other countries

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Relations with Russia

Historically, Russia has consistently had very close relations with Serbia and the former Yugoslavia, with Russian influence on Serbia/Yugoslavia often strong. Russia and Serbia have significant affinities, including majority populations of Slavic ethno-linguistic groups, Orthodox Christianity, multi-ethnic polities. Russia is remembered by Serbs by providing aid and assistance to their brothers-by-faith in overthrowing almost five centuries of Ottoman Turks occupation, and re-establishment of the Kingdom of Serbia in 19th century. Also, many anti-communist Russians found refuge in Serbia before persecution by the October revolution in the mid-20th century. During Milošević's rule, Russia pursued policies that generally supported the Milošević regime. During the Kosovo conflict in 1999, some observers suggested the possibility of Russia deploying troops in support of Serbia.

Relations with China

Milošević first visited China in the early 1980s, while still head of Beobank. Milošević visited China again in 1997, after an invitation by Chinese president Jiang Zemin. Milošević was often popularly known in China by the nickname Lao Mi ("老米"), a shortened form of the nickname "Old Milošević" (老米洛舍维奇). Among the state-operated media in China, Milošević was often referred to as "Comrade Milošević" (米洛舍维奇同志). Many sources hold that China officially supported Milošević throughout his presidency until his surrender.


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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 while refusing to recognize the legality of the court's jurisdiction.

His popularity among the Serbs and Yugoslavs again rose sharply once the trial had begun, as his supporters see it as a travesty of justice and violation of national sovereignty. In addition, the rules of procedure and the Statute of the ICTY are widely considered among legal experts as less-than-democratic by standards of modern (U.S.) jurisprudence (i.e. admission of hearsay as evidence, ex-post facto changes to rules of procedure, etc.)reference required

Milošević had a team in Belgrade that helped him, often sending him information available from the secret police files. Serbian insiders often supported Milošević's point of view, while Bosnian and Croatian witnesses have offered much testimony supporting the indictments.

The trial was a controversial issue and has featured many conflicting and strange testimonies, which are viewed by all sides of the argument to support theories of cover-ups and dishonesty by the opposing parties. For example:

  • the statement by William Walker, the US former ambassador to El Salvador during its war, that he did not remember phoning several senior US officials to say that, at Racak, he had discovered a justification for a NATO war, but did not dispute that officials who said they had received his calls were telling the truth,
  • the testimony by General Wesley Clark that Milošević had told Gen. Mladic not to attack Srebrenica[11] and in the same evidence that NATO had no links to the KLA.
  • the statement by Rade Marković 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[12] Judge May declared this to be "irrelevant", but Milošević stated that it was forbidden under the 1988 rules concerning evidence gained by torture.
  • the statement by Lord Owen (author of the Vance Owen Plan) that Milošević was not a racist, a radical nationalist or an "ethnic purist". Owen said he didn't think "that he (Milošević) was one of those who wanted all Muslims out of Republika Srpska any more than he wanted all Muslims out of Serbia."

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 publics of the involved former Yugoslav republics as it covered various notable events from the war and included several high-profile witnesses.

Milošević became increasingly ill during this time (high blood pressure and severe flu), which caused intermissions and prolonged the trial by at least six months. In early 2004, when he finally appeared in court in order to start presenting his defense (announcing over 1,200 witnesses), the two ICTY judges decided to appoint him two defense lawyers in accordance with the medical opinions of the resident cardiologists. This action was opposed by Milošević himself and the pair of British lawyers appointed to him.

In October 2004, the trial was resumed after being suspended for a month to allow counsel Steven Kay, who complained Milošević was not cooperating, to prepare the defense. Steven Kay has since asked to be allowed to resign from his court appointed position, complaining that of the 1200 witnesses he has only been able to get five to testify. Many of the other witnesses refused to testify in protest of ICTYs decision not to permit Milošević to defend himself.

In late 2004, former Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov became the first high profile witness to testify for the defence.

It was considered likely that, if allowed to present his case, Milošević would attempt to establish that NATO's attack on Yugoslavia was aggressive, thus being a war crime under international law and that, while supporting the KLA, were aware that they had practiced and intended to continue practicing genocide, which is a crime against humanity. If a prima facie case for either claim were established, the ICTY would be legally obliged under its terms of reference to prepare an indictment against the leaders of most of the NATO countries, even though the Prosecutor already concluded an "inquiry" against the NATO leaders.

Defenders of Milošević

Some writers and journalists, among them political scientist Michael Parenti in his book To Kill a Nation, have argued that the actions of Milošević, and of the Serbs more broadly, were systematically exaggerated by the Western media and politicians during the Bosnian War in order to provide justification for military intervention. [13] Adam Lebor, a biographer of Milošević, states that Milošević was not a dictator, as Tony Blair and Donald Rumsfeld have described him.[14] Rumsfeld described Milošević as a "failed dictator" alongside "Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and Ceauşescu" [15], suggesting that Serbia under Milošević was a totalitarian regime. Lebor points out that the opposition continued to operate throughout his rule, and Slobodan even negotiated with and made concessions to a leader of student demonstrations on one occasion. Parenti also points out that when election results in Serbia were disputed, the government had called in international observers to evaluate the validity of the elections and accepted their verdict when it was judged that Milošević's Socialist Party had been involved in electoral fraud.[16]

Lebor also believes that Milošević's role in the Slovenian War was restricted to making weighty demands on the use of Slovene airports, and being a passive supporter of the Yugoslav military in the Ten Day War. Some had seen the conflict as the first of four wars that Milošević was responsible for. Many reports from the time do not mention Milošević at all [17].

In her book Fool's Crusade Paris-based journalist Diana Johnstone contends that Milošević's actions during the conflict in the Balkans were no worse than the crimes of the Croats or the Bosnian Muslims, asserting also that the massacre in Srebrenica has been exaggerated. Political scientist Edward Herman endorsed Johnstone's findings in his review of Fool's Crusade in the Monthly Review [18].

In another book, The New Military Humanism, Noam Chomsky, who at times writes collaboratively with Herman, disagrees with Johnstone's views on Milošević, the Serbs, and Srebrenica in particular. Whilst Chomsky believes that the massacres at Srebrenica did occur, he does not believe that Milošević was involved in it, pointing to the Dutch report that claimed that he was horrified to hear of it.[19] He has described Milošević as a "terrible person", but still believes that he was not a dictator and that his crimes have been exaggerated whilst the crimes of the C.I.A.-backed KLA have been ignored.[20] In a 1999 interview, Chomsky sparked controversy with his view that to call the deaths in Kosovo a "genocide" was "an insult to the victims of Hitler".[21]

Leadership of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević (ICDSM) includes: Professor Velko Valkanov (President of the Bulgarian Committee for Human Rights, Honorary President of the Bulgarian Antifascist Union, former Member of Parliament, and founder of ICDSM, Bulgaria); Ramsey Clark, former United States Attorney General; Professor Alexander Zinoviev, a Russian philosopher and writer; and Canadian lawyer Christopher Black, co-founder, vice-chairman, and chair of ICDSM's legal committee. In 2004 Ramsey Clark wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stating that "the Prosecution has failed to present significant or compelling evidence of any criminal act or intention of President Milošević" [22]. Those who have joined the ICDSM include (in 2001) playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, who also signed the "Artists’ Appeal for Milošević" (Mar./Apr. 2004), a statement protesting unfair and biased conduct of the Tribunal, asserting its failure to prove Milošević's guilt justly, and calling for his immediate release [23].

His defenders are keen to deny that Milošević was a nationalist; Jared Israel even offered a $500 reward for anyone to find incitements to racial hatred in any of his speeches[24]. An oft-quoted speech in 1987 is seen by defenders of Milošević as being consistently misrepresented in the mainstream Western media; most of the speech contains encouragement for racial equality and harmony in Yugoslavia.

Death of Milošević

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

Autopsies soon established that Milošević had died of a heart attack. He had been suffering from heart problems and high blood pressure. However, 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. Shortly before his death, Milošević had requested to be treated in a Russian heart surgery centre, but the Tribunal had refused to permit that, stating mistrust of Russian guarantees that an escape would be made impossible. At the same time, Milošević had expressed fears that he was being poisoned. A scandal emerged when it was found that, according to an earlier medical test from January the 12th, Milošević's blood contained rifampicin, a drug that is normally used to treat leprosy and tuberculosis and which would have neutralized some of the effects of his medicines for his high blood pressure and heart condition. Milošević had complained about the presence of a leprosis drug in his blood in a letter to the Russian foreign ministry. After that fact was disclosed, some hypothesized that the Tribunal medical staff had administered the drug deliberately, while others believed that he had taken it himself to worsen his heart condition and thus force the Tribunal to let him travel to Russia and escape. It is, however, questionable that he would have been able to smuggle in such drugs, since all his visitors were searched at least once before gaining access to him in response to an incident in September 2005 in which he had taken medicine from a Serbian doctor without the approval of the Hague doctors. Blood tests conducted as part of his post mortem showed that it was unlikely that Milošević had ingested rifampicin in the last few days before his death.

Several medical experts, such as Leo Bokeria (the director of the Russian heart surgery centre, where Milošević had requested to be treated) and The Times' medical columnist Thomas Stuttaford, asserted that Milošević's heart attack could and should have been prevented easily by means of standard medical procedures.

The reactions to the death were mixed: officials and sympathisers of the ICTY Prosecution lamented what they saw as Milošević's having remained unpunished, while opponents, mostly Serbian and Russian figures, stressed what they viewed as the responsibility of the Tribunal for what had happened.

A funeral was held in Milošević's home town Pozarevac, after tens of thousands of supporters attended a farewell ceremony in Belgrade. The return of the body of this former president but alleged war criminal to Serbia and of his widow (who had been forbidden to travel there by prior legal proceedings but petitioned to attend his funeral) was very controversial, leading to great difficulties before their resolution.


In June 2006 the Supreme Court of Serbia decided that Milošević had ordered the murders of political opponents Ivan Stambolić and Vuk Drašković. The Supreme Court accepted the previous ruling of the Special Court for Organized Crime in Belgrade which targeted Milošević as the main abettor of politically motivated murders in the 1990s.

Milošević's defenders say the Court's ruling is of little value because he was never formally charged or given an opportunity to defend himself against the accusations.

In February 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) cleared Serbia of genocide, however the ICJ's president stated that Milošević was aware of the risk of massacres occurring and did not act to prevent them.[25]

Further reading


  1. Milosevic buried in quiet ceremony in his hometown. CBC News (18 March 2006). Retrieved on 5 March 2009.
  2. ICTY (2005). trial transcript, pg. 35947. Archived from the original on 2005-03-04.
  3. ICTY (2005). trial transcript, pg. 35654. Archived from the original on 2005-03-04.
  4. ICTY (2005). trial transcript, pg. 38649. Archived from the original on 2005-06-10.
  5. The Associated Press; November 24, 1989, Friday, AM cycle; Prosecutors Try 15 Ethnic Albanians; Former Vice President Charged
  6. Communique of 23rd January, 1991. Translation provided by the Slovenian President's office. Recorded in LeBor, "Milošević: a biography", Bloomsbury, London, 2003
  7. ICTY (2001). Initial indicement against Milošević on crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Archived from the original on 2001-11-24.
  8. [1]
  9. [2]
  10. [3]
  11. ICTY (2003). trial transcript, pg. 30489. Archived from the original on 2003-12-23.
  13. The Demonization of Slobodan Milosevic by Michael Parenti, December 2003
  14. Web page of Adam LeBor
  15. [4]
  16. Web page of Adam LeBor
  17. [5]
  18. [6]
  22. [7]
  23. [8]
  24. [9]
  25. UN clears Serbia of genocide (2007).

External links

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