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Article 6: Right to be treated equally by the law

  • The former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic is facing three indictments for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the United Nations-created International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
  • The trial, which began in February 2002 and has so far lasted two years, relates to alleged human rights abuses carried out under Mr Milosevic's orders in Kosovo in 1999, in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995, and in Croatia between 1991 and 1992.
  • In February 2004 the prosecution rested their case early, due to illness of both the defendant and the presiding judge.
  • Mr Milosevic rejects the authority of the ICTY. He has been defending himself and has distanced himself from the amici curiae – friends of the court – whose job it is to ensure a fair trial. The court did, however, appoint Mr Milosevic two lawyers – Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins – against his will. Both appealed against their appointment.
  • Mr Milosevic began his defence in July, but a month-long break was called in mid-September as Mr Milosevic again sought medical treatment.


Slobodan Milosevic has been formally charged with genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal known as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The ICTY is the first international war crimes tribunal since the International Military Tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo in 1945. It was established in 1993 by the UN Security Council in order to prosecute grave violations of international law committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991, namely breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, the prosecution must establish both the physical killing of a racial, national or ethnic group, and the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, such a group.

Mr Milosevic has stated repeatedly that he does not recognise the authority of the ICTY, which he refers to as a political or 'puppet' tribunal. He accuses the court of being a creature of Nato, which bombed his country in 1999 in retaliation for atrocities committed in Kosovo.

In his view, the events that have happened in and around his country over the past decade were the result of the global conspiracy against the Serbian nation.

The Indictments

The ICTY has issued three indictments for Mr Milosevic.

Mr Milosevic is accused of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in the province of Kosovo in 1999.

He purportedly ordered the deportation of 800,000 Kosovo Albanians and the murder of approximately 600 Albanians.

A second indictment states that Mr Milosevic committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Croatia between 1991 and 1992. It alleges that he ordered the murders of hundreds of civilians as well as the expulsion of 170,000 non-Serbs from their homes.

Finally, a third indictment accuses Mr Milosevic of committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. Mr Milosevic is alleged to be responsible for 'the widespread killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats.'

Genocide is the gravest crime known to international law. Defined with the Holocaust in mind, it refers to 'the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.'

Prosecutors are arguing that all of the indictments relate to a systematic plan to establish an ethnically pure, greater Serbian state.

At home in Serbia, Mr Milosevic also faces charges of alleged corruption and transferring state funds into foreign bank accounts.

The Trial

The three indictments are being dealt with at a single trial, which began in The Hague on 12 February 2002.

Mr Milosevic has refused to appoint lawyers to represent him. A qualified lawyer, he has decided to represent himself. He has not chosen the “nuclear option” of refusing, in practice, to acknowledge the authority of the court.

Mr Milosevic began his defence in mid-July. Two lawyers have been appointed to him. They have complained that Mr Milosevic will not co-operate and that many defence witnesses are refusing to testify.

Mr Milosevic wants to call over 1,000 witnesses - but it is unlikely he will be able to do that in the 150 court days allotted for his defence.


The case against Mr Milosevic has already lost a number of days due to the defendant’s physical ailments.

Some believe that while the case against him is strong, the prosecution would have preferred more time, instead of wrapping up early.

Further, they are unsettled by the fact that no former aide of Mr Milosevic has produced a “smoking gun,” not even Rade Markovic, the former head of the Serbian security service, on whom many hopes rested.

Analysts say the outcome of the case hinges on whether the prosecution have been able to determine Mr Milosevic’s "command responsibility" for the atrocities – in other words, that as President, he knew of the killings and campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The Milosevic case is the biggest in the ICTY's history, and its outcome is sure to alter the course of international criminal law.