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Meets Milosevic

Ramsey Clark charges Hague tribunal with gross violations

By Heather Cottin

From Aug. 1 to Aug. 3, attorney Ramsey Clark consulted with imprisoned former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in prison near The Hague, Netherlands. Milosevic is being held pending trial by a pro-NATO court for alleged war crimes.

The tribunal, called the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, failed to get a United Nations mandate to function as a propaganda arm of NATO. It has illegally restricted Milosevic's contact with lawyers and other friendly visitors.

Milosevic intends to defend himself before the tribunal. He refuses to recognize its authority. He has, however, requested assistance from Clark and other lawyers, both Yugoslav and foreign.

Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, is a human-rights and anti-war activist, a founder of the International Action Center. He is also co-chairperson of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, which includes a dozen lawyers from Europe and North America.

During the 1999 war Clark traveled twice to Yugoslavia to show his solidarity against NATO's bombs.

"Every Court has inherent power and the duty to prevent any violations of rights of accused persons before it," wrote Clark in an emergency motion to the ICTY protesting Milosevic's imprisonment. In the motion, Clark showed that the ICTY violated Slobodan Milosevic's rights from the moment it abducted him.

Slobodan Milosevic was leader of Yugoslavia during the 12 years Yugoslavs fought against NATO's dismemberment of their country, including 1999 when the nation defied NATO bombers. His party, the Socialist Party of Serbia, opposed International Monetary Fund privatization schemes and reactionary elements in the pay of the United States, German, and other NATO governments.

NATO and ICTY lies

NATO and ICTY lied when they kidnapped Milosevic in June and claimed a legal right to do so. "He has been seized, confined and illegally transported from his own country," wrote Clark.

NATO and ICTY lied when they brought Milosevic to their maximum-security prison. It was NATO that bombed the infrastructure of Yugoslavia, destroying hundreds of schools, hospitals, housing complexes, factories, bridges and power plants, killing thousands of people. Yet they accuse Milosevic of war crimes.

Then they caged him in The Hague prison, where they leave the lights on in his cell day and night and keep television cameras on him around the clock. They have made it nearly impossible for him to see his wife, Mira Markovic. She is forced to view him through a Plexiglas partition without even a working phone to allow them to speak.

NATO and ICTY lied again when they informed the media that their prisoner was suicidal. Clark said after his visit that, despite this barbaric treatment, "Milosevic remains strong, has an excellent spirit." This confirms Milosevic's own statements and those of other friendly lawyers.

Reuters reported as fact another NATO lie on July 31, saying that Milosevic "remains in solitary confinement at his own request."

"This is a lie," said Yugoslav lawyer Dragoslav Ognjanovic after meeting with Milosevic. Ognjanovic denied that his client had asked to be separated from other prisoners at the tribunal.

Clark said that Milosevic's solitary confinement, going into its second month, violates even "the tribunal's own rules and procedures."

Clark was quoted in the German pro-establishment weekly magazine Der Spiegel as saying: "I have seen this in many countries. The authorities try to disorient and weaken a political prisoner, especially in the first stages" by withholding visits or imposing onerous conditions.

In early July, the ICTY refused Clark's request to see Milosevic. By that time it was clear that the former Yugoslav president faced a total revocation of both the rights of the accused and the presumption of innocence.

The ICTY also lied about Milosevic's due process rights. Clark says that ICTY officials initially monitored conversations between Milosevic and his lawyers, abrogating the "requirement of confidentiality." Clark says the ICTY registry office had denied him permission to visit President Milosevic in early July, when the Yugoslav leader had first requested the right to consult with him.

When Milosevic announced his decision to represent himself, tribunal judge Richard May said that Milosevic would then have limited rights to seek assistance from lawyers. Another lie.

May claimed there was "no precedence for a defendant to defend himself." But at Milosevic's July 3 arraignment hearing, May had said, "You will have full opportunity in due course to defend yourself and to make your defense before the tribunal."

Clark noted, "Article 5 of the ICTY's own charter says, 'a suspect, an accused and any person detained on the authority of the tribunal shall have the right to be assisted by counsel.'"

Cutting through these obvious and vicious lies, Slobodan Milosevic, with the support of a strong team of lawyers, plans to take on his own defense and to put NATO and the ICTY on trial. According to Clark, Milosevic said: "OK. I didn't choose to be here, but I am here. It is my destiny to use this prison as a platform to help our people."

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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