Milosevic to ask Dutch court to challenge his arrest – AFP 12 July 2001

[We have added in red below  further background on some of the points made in this article.]


AFP, July 12, 2001
Milosevic to ask Dutch court to challenge his arrest
AMSTERDAM, July 12 (AFP) –
Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, awaiting trial before a UN tribunal in The Netherlands for Kosovo war crimes, will ask a Dutch court to rule on whether his arrest in Yugoslavia was legal, a lawyer advising him said Thursday.

Canadian lawyer Christopher Black said the action will be launched “to contest the legality of Milosevic´s arrest in Yugoslavia and the legality of his detention in the UN war crimes tribunal detention unit here in the Netherlands.”

Milosevic has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the 1998-1999 Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo.

UN prosecutors have said they intend to also indict the former head of state for war crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia.

Black told a news conference in Amsterdam that the action on behalf of Milosevic would be filed in a Dutch court in a few weeks.

According to Black´s colleague, Andre Tremblay, Dutch law includes a provision that allows a person to contest his detention if during the arrest, the laws of the country where the arrest took place were not respected.
Black, who heads up the legal arm of the International Committee for the Defense of Slobodan Milosevic, called the former president´s transfer to The Hague from Yugoslavia on June 28 an “outright kidnapping”.

Serbian authorities spirited Milosevic out of the country on a plane to The Netherlands after failing to win backing for the extradition either from the constitutional court or their Montenegrin allies in the federal government, who are one-time allies of the old regime.

Black said the transfer was illegal because Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic did not have the right to overrule the constitutional court in Belgrade.

The former president was already jailed in Belgrade on corruption charges under domestic law. The government used a legal loophole in the Serbian constitution allowing the republic to override federal decisions if it was in the country´s interest.

Milosevic refused counsel for his hearings before the tribunal at his initial appearance last week, charging that the court is illegal because it was not appointed by the UN General Assembly. [Milosevic’s point was absolutely correct.  In his original advice, UN Secretary-General had made it plain that the UN Charter had no power to create The Hague Tribunal.  This could only be done by an amendment to the Charter agreed by the UN General Assembly, or by an international Treaty.]

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was created by the UN Security Council in 1993. [Having already agreed in principle that the creation of an international criminal court for war crimes in Yugoslavia would be a good thing, the key question confronting the Security Council was whether under the UN Charter it had the legal power to create such a court.  In the event they entirely ducked this question, nodding through the resolution on the basis of a paper they had ordered the Secretary-General to write which essentially concluded that it would be appropriate because of  ‘humanitarian urgency’.  This, of course, had no bearing on the legal position – a fact well recognised by the members of the Security Council, most of whom were minuted as saying that they had strong reservations about this false interpretation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter.]

Black said he would ask for Milosevic´s release because the tribunal was created by the Security Council and not the assembly at large.

Tremblay called Milosevic a “political prisoner” and said the Serbian nationalist had “no trust whatsoever in the tribunal”, which he described as the “legal branch of the oppressor”, a veiled reference to the United States.
He said Milosevic had asked Black to act as his agent and instruct the Dutch lawyers launching the legal action. He would not name the Dutch legal team “for security reasons”.

The team will fight the legality of the arrest before the Dutch court, the European Comission and the UN General Assembly, Tremblay said.
Black held a two-hour meeting with Milosevic on Monday.

“He´s quite relaxed and has a clean conscience,” the lawyer said. “He is never going to plead guilty to something he didn´t do and will fight to his last breath to prove he is innocent.”

The Canadian lawyers said their statements “reflect the words and sentiment of Milosevic” as he expressed them during the meeting in the ICTY detention centre.

Black would not say if the former Yugoslav president would continue to represent himself before the ICTY. He added that he was not being paid for his work for Milosevic at the moment and was hoping for financial support from “the Serb diaspora” and from within Yugoslavia.