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Experts discuss criminal tribunal case

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Nearly four years after the death of the infamous former president of Serbia and the former Yugoslavia who was on trial for murder and crimes against humanity, an Indiana law school hosted The Milosevic Trial: An Autopsy, a conference of more than 20 experts on the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Authorities on Eastern European and Russian history and politics, international criminal law, and other issues that came into play during Milosevic's trial gathered Feb. 18-21 at Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington. The ultimate goal is to publish a book that will provide a comprehensive look at the process of Milosevic's trial and how his death affected the outcome, or lack of outcome.

Law professor Timothy William Waters, who organized the conference, is a former member of the Office of the Prosecutor for the ICTY and helped draft the Kosovo indictment for Milosevic.

That indictment, issued May 24, 1999, regarded his treatment of Albanian civilians in Kosovo, including "forced deportation of approximately 800,000 Kosovo Albanian civilians. ... The murder of hundreds of Kosovo Albanian civilians ... in a widespread or systematic manner throughout the province of Kosovo. The sexual assault by forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia against Kosovo Albanians, in particular women. Widespread or systematic campaign of destruction of property owned by Kosovo Albanian civilians ..." according to case information available through the ICTY.

Milosevic was also indicted in October 2001 for similar crimes against Croat and other non-Serbian civilians in Croatia, and indicted again in November 2001 for crimes against Bosnian Muslims and non-Serbian civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He was arrested April 1, 2001, and his case was transferred to the ICTY June 29, 2001. His trial began Feb. 12, 2002, following no pleas to any of the charges against him.

The trial officially ended without a judgment March 14, 2006, days after his death on March 11, 2006, which was found to be due to natural causes. He was 65 and had been complaining of illness throughout the trial.

Waters, who had been teaching classes about the Milosevic trial and invited current students to observe the February conference, first started organizing the speakers in March 2009. He said his intent was that panelists would have a mix of backgrounds, including people from the former Yugoslavia, professors, historians, and legal experts, and others with a stake in Milosevic's trial.

Among the goals for conference attendees was for them to determine if it mattered that there was no judgment, or if there was anything to be learned from the process for future international criminal cases.

"Everyone knew this was the biggest case they'd do. There were a lot of hopes attached to it," Waters said. "The way it ended is almost more interesting than if there had been a judgment."

Among the questions he wanted the conference to address was what happened to all the claims against Milosevic after his case ended?

When he got the idea for the conference, his goal was to have three kinds of people: those who worked on the trial, those who were scholars of international criminal law, journalists and various experts on the former Yugoslavia.

"To just have lawyers or only Yugoslavians talk would leave out a lot," he said.

During the conference, Waters said there were a number of "reasonably and acceptably tense exchanges," as he expected. "It's a very divisive issue. If there were no sparks and fireworks I'd be disappointed."

The conference also brought together seven different departments of I.U., including the university's Russian and East European Institute and Center for West European Studies, which cosponsored the event with the law school.

The school's Multi-Disciplinary Venture Fund; the Office of the Vice-President for International Affairs; the journalism school; international studies; departments of anthropology, history, and Slavic languages and literatures; Indiana Democracy Consortium; and Columbia University's Harriman Institute of the School of International and Public Affairs also participated.

The sessions throughout the conference focused on specific papers written and critiqued by participants.

The first session included a paper by Marko Prelec, a research officer with the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICTY from 1999 to 2005. He was the senior researcher on the Milosevic trial from 2002 through 2004. From 2005 to 2007 he was head of the investigation and analysis section within the Special Department for War Crimes at the Bosnian State Prosecutor's Office.

Prelec's paper was from the prosecution's standpoint. When addressing other panelists, points he made included how important the court is to not only remove leaders but their legacy, and how things might appear to be different looking back at the case since the first indictments were filed more than 10 years ago.

In response to his paper, other panelists suggested he consider how the adversarial nature of the court played a part in the prosecution's case, including how they wanted to use the case to make history and define what had been going on in the former Yugoslavia while Milosevic was in power.

As one panelist said, it's the prosecutors' job to present the best possible case for their side, which could involve the way facts were stated, even if they possibly overstated the truth. That panelist also asked if the prosecution had considered that now that the case is over whether it would make sense to go back over the briefs and revise them accordingly to get a better look at the facts.

Another paper was from Zdenko Tomanovic, Milosevic's legal advisor. Tomanovic raised the issue of how Milosevic was treated - how his requests for medical attention from a specific doctor were denied, and how the court treated him when he decided to represent himself.

Among his points, Tomanovic said Milosevic was presented 1.3 million pages of documents to look through. However, Milosevic was also told he'd have "sufficient time" to look through the documents for his case, something Tomanovic said was impossible for anyone to do in anyone's lifetime.

Considering the substantial number of documents, Tomanovic asked if the purpose of giving them to Milosevic was to hinder his case.

Based on his paper, other panelists asked if the court was punishing Milosevic for wanting to represent himself; the court allows defendants to represent themselves even if they are from countries where that is not an option.

Panelists also asked if there was a way to streamline the body of evidence for this case to make things more equitable for Milosevic, as opposed to expecting him to read 1.3 million pages.

Tomanovic added the system of the criminal tribunal was inherently unfair to Milosevic because the judges and prosecution were working to prove what they already thought he was guilty of.

"Can anyone be fairly tried for war crimes in the same system as individual crimes and individual responsibilities?" he asked. "Does a rabbit have a chance to persuade a hunter he has a right to live?"

Prelec added it didn't help Milosevic's case that he looked like a caricature of what the prosecutors wanted to make him out to be.

Another panelist added Milosevic might have had a cultural misunderstanding of what the court was supposed to represent - that the defense focused on the accused's perception of himself and not necessarily the charges at hand.

Other sessions included discussions on papers about the role of the media and the public's perception of the former Yugoslavia; what might have happened in the 40 hours of the trial that remained after Milosevic's death; had the ICTY achieved the goals it had at its onset; and how had the Milosevic case affected similar cases involving other ICTY defendants such as Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Charles Taylor of Liberia, who recently wrapped up his testimony at The Hague.

Waters said the next step will be for the panelists to use the criticism from others to work on revisions. Participants will continue the discussions remotely until final drafts are compiled. At that point, Indiana University Press will publish the papers into a comprehensive book about what happened and what could have happened.

For more information about the symposium and the speakers, visit the Web site: http://www.law.indiana.edu/milosevic/.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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