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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 04:06 GMT 05:06 UK
Analysis: Milosevic genocide charges
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic rejects the tribunal's legitimacy
As the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic enters its second phase in The Hague, the BBC's Alix Kroeger looks at some key points in the prosecution's case.

In November 1994, Dzenana Sokolovic, 31, and her seven-year-old son Nermin Divovic were fired on while walking in Sarajevo.

The dead were either rounded up and executed, or hunted down in the woods
More than 7,000 Muslims were killed in the Srebrenica massacre
Ms Sokolovic was wounded by a bullet, which passed through her and hit her son in the head, killing him.

Nermin's death is catalogued in the indictment against former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Bosnia.

When the Bosnia phase of Mr Milosevic's trial opens on Thursday, the prosecution will be trying to prove the most serious charge on the book: genocide.

And it won't be easy.

Difficult task

As well as genocide, Mr Milosevic is indicted for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the laws and customs of war - legal phrases which cover some of the bloodiest events of the Bosnian war.

Tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte
The prosecution is criticised for not presenting a watertight case

These include the siege of Sarajevo, the Srebrenica massacre, and the detention camps at Trnopolje and Omarska. This phase of the trial will also cover incidents in Croatia.

The difficulty for the prosecution will be to link these events directly to Mr Milosevic: that, as the indictment claims, he "planned, instigated, ordered, committed...or otherwise aided or abetted" these war crimes.

In Kosovo, covered by the first phase of the trial, Mr Milosevic, as Yugoslav president, clearly had some authority over the Yugoslav army.

Whether or not he is legally responsible for the army's activities will be up to the judge to decide.

In Bosnia, the issue is a little different.

The Bosnian Serbs had their own leadership - Radovan Karadzic, their president, and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic.

Both are under indictment for war crimes themselves, both remain at large.

Mr Milosevic was indisputably in close contact with the Bosnian Serb leadership, but the lines are much more blurred.

Milosevic' self-defence

For a genocide conviction to be secured, the court has to be satisfied the defendant deliberately set out to remove an entire ethnic group.

Radovan Karadzic, pictured in 1996
Karadzic is still at large

So far, the prosecution has only secured one conviction for genocide - against General Radislav Krstic, one of the commanders on the ground at Srebrenica in 1995, when more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men were killed by the Bosnian Serb army.

None of this is likely to trouble Mr Milosevic.

He has refused to recognise the tribunal or the charges against him, and is conducting his own defence, including the cross-examination of witnesses.

Despite his training as a lawyer, the former president seems less concerned with the legal aspects of his trial - such as disproving the evidence against him - and more with playing to the gallery, his audience in Serbia.

Witnesses' credibility

But the prosecution has stumbled, too.

It promised insider witnesses who would pin responsibility for Kosovo directly on Mr Milosevic.

By no means all of them have obliged. The former head of the Serbian secret police, Rade Markovic, told the court his forces had strict orders to protect civilians.

In the case of one insider witness, Ratomir Tanic, there were serious questions about his credibility.

Mr Tanic changed his statement, saying at first he'd heard Mr Milosevic give orders in a face-to-face meeting, then later claiming he'd eavesdropped on one of the president's phone conversations.

The political party to which Mr Tanic said he belonged denied he had ever been a member.

Running behind schedule

However, protected witness K-34 described in court how Serb forces had orders to slaughter villagers in Kosovo to "cleanse" the province of Albanians.

When Mr Milosevic questioned his evidence, the witness, a Yugoslav army private, retorted, "You weren't there - I was."

With indictments spanning three different wars, hundreds of thousands of victims, and thousands of possible witnesses, the Milosevic trial had the potential to run for years.

But the tribunal set a strict timetable. Prosecutors have until 16 May 2003 to make their case.

Between now and then, they intend to call 177 witnesses, 71 for Croatia, and 106 for Bosnia.

But the trial is running behind schedule. Mr Milosevic has fallen ill twice, causing hearings to be suspended until he recovered - in one case, for two weeks.

'Kangaroo court'

However, not all the evidence will be heard in court. This is not a jury trial; the judge alone will decide on Mr Milosevic's guilt or innocence.

The prosecution has collected written witness statements to support evidence presented in open court.

There is a lot riding on this case: not just for Mr Milosevic, or the tribunal, but the countries of the former Yugoslavia too.

In Serbia itself, coverage has been muted.

Mr Milosevic has played on the widespread perception that this is victors' justice, a kangaroo court biased against Serbs.

The prosecution has emphasised that it is putting an individual on trial, not an entire people. Mr Milosevic has sought to create exactly the opposite impression.

Even if the prosecution secures a conviction, it may never convince the people of Serbia that justice has been done.

At The Hague

Still wanted



See also:

10 Sep 02 | Media reports
26 Aug 02 | Europe
05 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
26 Jul 02 | Europe
26 Jul 02 | Europe
28 Jun 02 | Europe
10 Sep 02 | Europe
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