A procedural conference was held at The Hague tribunal today. Mr. Kay, the attorney imposed on Slobodan Milosevic against his will, has ran out of witnesses who would agree to testify in the “trial.”


Mr. Kay explained that the witnesses had banded together and were refusing to testify unless Milosevic’s right to present his own defense was restored.


The “judges” expressed shock and disbelief that this had occurred. Mr. Bonamy was particularly angered and suggested that the witnesses should be subpoenaed and forcefully compelled to participate in the proceedings against their will.


Mr. Robinson went on the defensive, saying that the tribunal had decided to impose counsel on Milosevic against his will in order to “keep the tribunal from falling into disrepute” and to ensure “a fair and expeditious trial.”


Apparently Mr. Robinson is unaware that the tribunal has already fallen into disrepute. Even the British Helsinki Human Rights Group has branded the tribunal a “star chamber” and said that “the ICTY has demonstrated itself to be in contempt of the rule of law” when it imposed counsel on Milosevic.


Mr. Robinson’s concern for a “fair and expeditious trial” is also nonsense. If he were concerned about that then he would immediately return Milosevic’s right to self-defense. That way the witnesses would be willing to testify, crucial evidence would be presented, and the proceedings could run smoothly.


It is precisely the tribunal’s decision to force lawyers on Milosevic, and deny him his right to present his defense that has caused the tribunal to be viewed with the contempt that it is. It is because of their ruling that the witnesses are boycotting the proceedings.


Mr. Kwon tried to say that the tribunal was protecting Milosevic from himself. Kwon said that if they allowed Milosevic to defend himself then his health would be hurt.


This argument doesn’t hold water. Tribunal and its doctors say that Milosevic is too sick to defend himself, but they won’t allow him to be examined or treated by any other doctors.


When the tribunal ordered the imposition of counsel, Milosevic asked for a second medical opinion, and his request was denied. In the proceedings today Mr. Kay also asked for further medical tests and he was denied too. Obviously the “judges” don’t give a damn about Milosevic’s health – they just want to shut him up.


In his submissions Mr. Kay also asked the tribunal to allow Milosevic to question the witnesses first, followed by questioning by the imposed counsel. The lawyer said he believed the witnesses would appear if Milosevic was the one examining them.

In the proceedings today, Mr. Nice demonstrated his ability to suck-up. He said that everybody was being unreasonable except for the “judges.” He said that Milosevic was unreasonable for wanting to present his defense, and he said that the witnesses were unreasonable for refusing to participate in what they view as a show trial.


Mr. Nice suggested that Milosevic’s legal associates should be forced to work with Mr. Kay, and to give Mr. Kay all of their information and resources. Apparently the concept of attorney-client privilege means nothing to Mr. Nice.


After Mr. Nice finished, Milosevic was allowed to make a brief speech of about 20 minutes. Milosevic began his speech by reading out letters from defense witnesses who were boycotting the trial. 


Milosevic read a letter from James Bissett, who was the Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, saying the trial "had taken on all the characteristics of a Stalinist show trial."

"I do not want to be part of this travesty of justice," Bissett wrote in the letter. "I have from the outset had serious misgivings about the legitimacy of the tribunal." He wrote that the tribunal, "is a political court rather than a judicial body operating in the interests of truth and justice."


Milosevic also read from a letter written by another potential witnesses, former U.S. diplomat George Kenney, that he would appear at The Hague only if Milosevic is allowed to present his own defense case.

"I believed then, as I believe now, that you are innocent of all the charges in the indictment," Milosevic quoted Kenney as having written. The letter from Kenney, who served as head of the U.S. State Department's Yugoslavia desk, called the hearings "inherently unfair, amounting to little more than a political show trial."


Milosevic said that Mr. Kay was not advancing his defense because, according to Milosevic, “Mr. Kay knows nothing about Yugoslavia.”


Even though Milosevic's speech gave every reason why a witness should not testify, he nonetheless left it to the witnesses themselves to decide if they should participate or boycott.


Milosevic also set the record straight as far as his health was concerned, saying that the tribunal imposed a program, and a tempo of work on him that ignored the doctor’s advice and imperiled his health.


He also denied rumors spread by Mr. Kay and Mr. Nice that he was not taking his medicine, and to bear this out he explained the way in which medicine is administered in the prison, where all medicine is administered and taken in the presence of the guards.


Even as the proceedings were taking place today witnesses were announcing their refusal to participate. Professor Michael Chossodovsky, from the University of Ottawa, faxed the tribunal his formal refusal to participate.


Today in Belgrade thirty more witnesses announced their refusal to appear in the proceedings. Their statement read: “We refuse as witnesses to take part in the proceedings before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague against Milosevic in which the defendant was stripped of his last remaining human right - the right to defense”

"Without such a right, the defendant is a prisoner of the court stripped of all rights. In such a proceeding the war crimes tribunal is listening to one side (prosecution) only, while the other side (defense) is not their concern," they said.


Among the thirty were former Montenegrin president Momir Bulatovic, historians Slavenko Terzic and Vasilije Krestic, writer Momo Kapor and ex-Croatian Serb leader Borislav Mikelic, it was reported.


Russian parliamentarian Nikolai Ryzhkov publicly announced he had refused to testify last week. A group of five French witnesses also announced they would not come unless Milosevic’s right to self defense is restored.


The tribunal can’t even pretend to have a fair trial. Nobody can say that justice is being done at the tribunal. It is because of the tribunal’s decision to illegally impose counsel on Milosevic that important evidence is not being presented. Witnesses, as a matter of principle, can not and will not agree to be associated with a “trial” where the defendant is not even allowed to present his defense.


Kay asked for the trial to be suspended pending an appeal against his assignment. The tribunal explicitly refused to grant a stay on those grounds but nonetheless said that it was likely that within the adjournment they approved to give Kay more time the appeal will be decided as well.


The session was adjourned today, and the "trial" is not scheduled to resume again until October 12, 2004.

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