ABC news Sat, Oct 5 2002 – Milosevic and May

An interesting account of one of the many clashes between Slobodan Milosevic and the ICTY judge, Sir Richard May


ABC news

Sat, Oct 5 2002 7:46 AM AEST

Milosevic clashes with judge over ‘protected’ witness

Slobodan Milosevic has clashed with the presiding judge at his war crimes trial over his cross-examination of a “protected” prosecution witness.The former Yugoslav president was cut short several times by Judge Richard May and ordered to stick to the point as he led the witness, a moderate Croatian Serb politician identified only as C037, through a catalogue of alleged atrocities committed against Serbs in the Western Slavonia area  of Croatia in late 1991.

But it all got too much for the judge at one point, when Milosevic’s microphone failed as he was asking a question.  Judge May snapped: “We can’t hear you but it sounds that what you are saying is irrelevant.” 

He went on: “You are trying to argue your entire case through this witness, which is a waste of the court’s time. If he simply read something in the paper, then that’s no use to anyone.”

Milsoevic, who on Monday had questioned the credibility of the witness onthe grounds that his evidence consisted almost entirely of hearsay, denialsand memory lapses, then retorted: “Mr May, I expected you to make suchcomments to the prosecution in their examination.

“He was asked if he heard about something or read it in a newspaper or sawit on Croatian TV, but I am only asking him what he knows. So you accepttestimony of something heard in the examination-in-chief but you are notallowing me to do so.”

Milosevic was also angry at a prosecution request to change the order of calling witnesses due to difficulties of people travelling to the Netherlands. He said he thought the court had agreed to provide him with a list of  whowas to appear at least a week ahead. “There are 125,500 pages, 600videotapes and two to three hundred audio tapes and it is physically impossible to view them all or even make a selection unless I have notice a few days in advance. If the prosecution try to use these tricks, it is impermissible (sic).”

May admonished him: “You are wrong to talk of tricks. There are always difficulties getting witnesses here. We are conscious of the difficulties ofthe amount of evidence we have served on you and the difficulty of preparingyour defence. 

“The order of witnesses is not set in stone but we have to make sure youhave time to prepare for each one and that is what we will do.”

After another lengthy period of cross-questioning in which Milosevic triedto establish an inventory of how many Serbian villages in the region hadbeen torched, May intervened again to warn him: “You are rehearsing at greatlength and, if I may say so, with much repetition, that crimes were committed against Serbs.

“That may or may not be so but it is not relevant to our determining whethercrimes were committed by you or by others.”

Milosevic, who has refused to enter a plea over the war crimes chargesagainst him, hit back: “I wish to remind you that I am not concealing myview that what you call an indictment is a false indictment, primarily fortwo reasons. 

“First of all, no aggression took place, it was a civil war, and secondlythe Serbian people had this war imposed upon them both in Croatia and in Bosnia. “It is evident they were defending the territory where they lived and were trying to avoid pogroms such as those perpetrated 50 years earlier. 

That is the only truth I am trying to explain here.”

And denying he was contending that the other side was equally guilty, heinsisted: “I have committed no crimes.”

Towards the end of the session, May halted him again and chided: “You seem to lose the focus of what a trial is for, which is to consider specificcharges, not some other wrong at some other time.”

Milosevic, 61, who is in the dock on more than 60 charges of war crimes  and crimes against humanity for his involvement in the 1990s wars in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia, faces life behind bars if convicted.