On Tuesday 30th September 2003 The Hague Tribunal heard a submission from the Prosecution that if accepted would mean the imposition of Defence Counsel on President Milosevic against his will, and would enable the trial to proceed without the presence of the accused.
This basic denial of the right of the accused to conduct his own defence is yet further proof of the political nature of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The arguments for the Prosecution, presented by Mr Nice, would be comical if they were not so tragic. To an outbreak of derisory laughter from the public gallery, Nice tried to suggest that the President’s health problems would be eliminated if he gave up smoking cigarettes! He further proposed that on his ‘rest days’ Mr Milosevic could study Court documents and watch hours of witness videos to save time and expedite the trial proceedings. Moreover, according to Mr Nice, the accused brought his ill health upon himself because he would insist on cross-examining the Prosecution’s witnesses. How very inconsiderate of Mr Milosevic!
In contrast to the Prosecution’s absurd arguments, which follow the equally absurd ruling that Mr Milosevic provide the Court and the Prosecution with his defence details and list of defence witnesses within six weeks, Mr Milosevic has proposed that there be a two-year recess in the trial in order to prepare his defence and that he be released from custody where his medical condition can be treated by doctors of his own choice.
It was these two key demands that gained an interest from journalists at Tuesday’s hearing when members and supporters of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic (ICDSM) distributed their Press Release and gave interviews outside the Tribunal building. Such was the impact of the ICDSM intervention that the Tribunal’s security staff felt obliged to harass the journalists and demand to see their passports and credentials. It was to the credit of the ICDSM supporters that all copies of the Committee’s literature were distributed even in the face of such intimidation.
The only ruling given by the Court on the day was that from Monday (6th October 2003), following the advice of the Court appointed doctors, Mr Milosevic should attend trial for three days and rest for the next four.
A decision regarding the Prosecution’s latest submission would be announced shortly, though it is worth noting that to accept this submission would mean yet a further rewriting of the Tribunal’s existing rules.
Objective observers of the ‘trial’ cannot fail to note the sheer desperation of both the Court and Prosecution at their inability to break the resistance of President Milosevic and their inability to prevent the development and growth of his Defence Committee.
International Demonstration at The Hague
Following their intervention of the 30th September the ICDSM joined with Sloboda, the Belgrade based resistance movement, and using the slogan ‘the aggressors shall not write our history’ called for an 8th November 2003 demonstration in The Hague against the illegal and politically motivated ICTY. (For details of the origin and financing of the ICTY see Lalkar Jan/Feb 2003 issue).
The demonstration itself saw the participation of the Serbian Diaspora together with various political organisations such as the Socialist Labour Party, the Greek Communist Party, the German Communist Party, the Workers Party of Belgium, the New Communist Party of the Netherlands, and many others.
The presence of a Greek MEP, and the announcement of newly formed ICDSM National Committees in Italy and the United States, was a vindication of the principled stand taken by the ICDSM/Sloboda in this last period and a testament to the correctness of their work and to the struggle conducted in The Hague by Slobodan Milosevic.
The demonstration commenced with a rally at Het Plien, outside the Dutch Parliament, where the speakers and the colourful crowd attracted the attention of passers-by.
Using the slogan, ‘the aggressors shall not write our history’, the speakers emphasised the key demands of the protest which attacked both the political and legal legitimacy of the ICTY.
The subsequent march wound through the streets of Den Haag and reached the Detention Unit in Scheveningen where the demonstrators roared their support for the Yugoslav political prisoners held there.
The speakers of various nationalities, including the SLP, who addressed the crowd outside the prison gates, showed the international nature of the demonstration.
An emotional moment occurred between the speeches as a minute of silence was observed for the workers of RTS Belgrade who lost their lives during the Nato bombing of the television station. As each name was called out from the platform a member of the demonstration came forward holding a cross with the victim’s name on it. Sixteen crosses were assembled at the front of the platform and the rally did what no western media had the decency to do: they paid their respects to these innocent victims of the aggression.
As darkness fell and the music and speeches concluded the demonstrators reluctantly dispersed.
The Yugoslav Defence Committee outlined that this struggle, both at The Hague and in Belgrade (recently hit with a wave of strikes demanding an end to privatisation and an end to any co-operation with The Hague Tribunal), will intensify and to this end the ICDSM/Sloboda are planning further actions, events and demonstrations and details will be released as soon as they are finalised. (See the websites: www.icdsm.org and www.sloboda.org.yu )
The United States have invested too much time and effort, not to mention spent too much money, to allow their plans for the Balkans to be disrupted by free and fair elections. However, that notwithstanding, what is becoming increasingly clear, regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming 28th December elections in Serbia, is that the days of the current Western-backed regime in Belgrade are numbered. As several speakers at The Hague demonstration outlined, the imposition of a quisling government in Iraq will fail also.
The prosecution’s case at The Hague is reaching its final stages and any honest observer is forced to conclude that it has failed miserably. Despite collecting evidence since at least 1993, despite employing 1300 staff and despite unlimited finance the prosecution has failed to produce one single scrap of credible evidence.
Reading between the lines, Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte admitted as much in July this year. She claimed that by October 2003 the prosecution would supply the ‘conclusive evidence’ they needed. Given this admission cynics may wonder why then in the absence of evidence previously, had Yugoslavia been subjected to ten-years of crippling sanctions, seventy-eight days of murderous bombing, suffered a western backed coup and had their President kidnapped?
The much-anticipated ‘conclusive evidence’ surfaced on the 26th September 2003 and turned out to be the testimony of Momir Nikolic, former officer in the Bosnian Serb Army involved in events around Srebrenica in July 1995. For once, after months of silence, the British press commented on the ‘trial’ and published news of Nikolic’s testimony.
Three days later, on the 29th September 2003, Momir Nikolic admitted lying as part of a plea bargain he made with the prosecution. In other words the source of this ‘conclusive evidence’ this ‘star witness’ in this ‘trial of the century’ committed perjury! No mainstream British media reported this admission nor issued a retraction for previously deceiving their readers.
The Yugoslavs have noted that unfortunately such revelations are not new, bought and paid for witnesses are all the prosecution have outside of Nato and its associates. It is no longer shocking to hear of perjury, of torturing of witnesses to give false testimony, these things are now commonplace. But what is disturbing is that the ICTY’s actions and the role and collusion of the media shock no one.
For those readers not conversant with the operational procedures of the ‘trial’ let me offer one recent example.
On the 24th November 2003 the prosecution called secret witness number B-1746 who was from the municipality of Doboj in Bosnia-Herzgovina. He claimed that although he personally hadn’t seen any killings take place he had heard of some from other people. (Hearsay evidence. IJ). He had heard that Russian and Romanian volunteer units were fighting on the Yugoslav side and he had heard that ‘Arkan’s White Eagles’ had attacked Doboj, his hometown. Unfortunately for witness B-1746, there was no such thing as ‘Arkan’s White Eagles.’ Arkan was the commander of the Serbian Volunteer Guard, also known as the Tigers.
When President Milosevic confronted the witness with these facts, B-1746 claimed that he couldn’t be expected to keep the identities of all those paramilitaries straight. So, in other words B-1746 had no idea who had attacked Doboj.
With their witness clearly in trouble the prosecution intervened and explained that B-1746 had not had the opportunity to see his witness statement yet! Now once again cynics may reasonably respond by asking, ‘well he wrote it didn’t he?’ To which the honest answer is, no, he didn’t.
Ludicrously, what the prosecution was trying to do was claim that the witness couldn’t be responsible for what was contained in his statement because he’d never seen it!
Such is the reworking of International Law in the realms of the New World Order.
Many distinguished lawyers from various countries have lodged their opposition to the ICTY on legal grounds. It is dragging their profession through the mud and making a mockery of the norms of even the bourgeois justice system.
The ICTY operates at two levels. One, it is a political tool. Two, it pretends to be legal. It should be attacked and exposed on both counts.
If the demand for a two year break in the ‘trial’ is not met then the case for the defence is due to begin early next year. As the Tribunal has as yet shown no signs of even considering this legitimate demand it is worth reiterating the following: The Prosecution has been preparing its case since at least 1993, it is still adding names to its witness list today. So far it has called over 200 witnesses, and Mr Milosevic has been notified of witnesses and ‘their’ statements sometimes just hours before their court appearance. The Tribunal use 1300 staff and have virtually unlimited finance. In the last four years alone they have spent half a billion dollars preparing their case. In the collection of evidence and in the supply of witnesses they have the assistance of western governments and their intelligence agencies. In contrast to this the defence, Slobodan Milosevic, has been told by the Tribunal that he has six weeks to provide them with all the details of his defence case and supply a list of the witnesses he wishes to call. This task is to be accomplished from the confines of his prison cell with the facility of a pay phone located in the corridor outside his cell! Furthermore the Tribunal supplies no funds whatsoever for the defendant. After they have received these details the judges will decide what is permissible and what witnesses may be called. Moreover Mr Milosevic is denied access to his family, his friends, all members of his Socialist Party of Serbia and all members of Sloboda.
Nothing could illustrate better the real reason that Slobodan Milosevic is on trial. The only reason he is on trial today is because he led the Yugoslav resistance against the Nato aggression in 1999.
The struggle for freedom and independence organised by the Yugoslav Defence Committee (ICDSM/Sloboda) is being compared to the struggle of the Bulgarian communist Georgi Dimitrov prior to the Second World War. A statement from Sloboda and the Socialist Party of Serbia reads in part, “The struggle and the victory of Dimitrov exactly 70 years ago had mobilized people to resist the most terrible tyranny of fascism. The struggle and the victory of Milosevic today will be the victory of us all who are determined not to let such a tyranny recur.” (20th October 2003. Belgrade).
As we go to press, it can be seen that the results of the Parliamentary elections in Serbia at the end of December 2003 have wiped the grin off the face of imperialism, for the parties opposing the occupation of Yugoslavia by NATO, and the cooperation by the quislings in Belgrade with the kangaroo court in the Hague, have registered huge gains. Milosevic has won and his party, the Socialist Party of Serbia, has gained 7.4% of the vote, winning 22 seats, while its ally, the Serbian Radical Party, polled 27.7% of the vote and won a huge 81 seats. This give the two parties a solid parliamentary base, while the pro-imperialist puppets (sorry ‘democrats’) fight among each other.