Friday, August 20, 2004

What we have to look forward to ...

... if bin Laden (who reportedly has serious health problems) is captured and tried before an international court:

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Slobodan Milosevic spent a fourth birthday in U.N. custody Friday, his war crimes trial at a standstill because of his fragile health and his judges facing a dilemma on how to get going again.

Should they allow the 63-year-old former Yugoslav president to continue defending himself, despite months of delays? Or should they impose a defense lawyer against his will?

And should the case be broken into three parts — for the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo — to increase the chance of reaching a verdict on at least some of the charges?

The rulings, possibly coming later this month, not only mark a crucial juncture in the Milosevic case, but could set a precedent for other international trials, such as former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's, experts say.

After 2 1/2 years and 296 witnesses, Milosevic's trial hasn't even reached the halfway mark. It has been six months since the court dealt with the substance of the case — 66 counts of war crimes charging Milosevic with responsibility for abuses during the three Balkan wars that killed hundreds of thousands in the 1990s during the breakup of the Yugoslav federation.

While Milosevic is not charged with ordering specific atrocities, U.N. indictments allege his policy of trying to create a "greater Serbia" by driving out non-Serbs led to such incidents as the slaughter of 7,500 Bosnian Muslim males at Srebrenica over a July week in 1995.

The prosecution ended its case in February, but since then the tribunal has held only a few hearings — all to review Milosevic's problems with high blood pressure and stress on his heart. The start of his defense case has been postponed five times, and is now tentatively set for Aug. 31.